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S. 17, A BILL TO REPEAL CERTAIN ACTS RELATING TO
CONTAINERS FOR FRUITS AND VEGETABLES, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 1966
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The ad hoc subcommittee met, pursuant to call, in Room 2325, Rayburn House Office Building, at 10 o'clock a.m., the Hon. J. Edward Roush (chairman of the subcommittee), presiding.
Mr. Roush. The subcommittee will be in order.
Because the House goes into session this morning at 11 rather than the customary hour of noon, we are going to have to hurry right along with these hearings.
We meet this morning to take testimony on S. 17, a bill to repeal the Standard Container Acts of August 31, 1916, and May 21, 1928.
These acts establish standard volumes and sizes for wood veneer fruit and vegetable containers. The Senate has acted favorably on this bill, stating that the acts are now obsolete and do not meet the standards of new marketing practices.
I hope the testimony we receive this morning might explain to us the reason for the need to repeal these previous laws and you might add any other pertinent facts which will enlighten the committee.
As our first witness this morning we have Mr. Arthur E. Browne of the Department of Agriculture. Mr. Browne is Deputy Director, Fruit and Vegetable Division, Consumer and Marketing Service.
Mr. Browne, will you take a chair right here, sir? I believe you have a prepared statement; is that correct?
Mr. BROWNE. Yes, sir; I have.
Mr. Roush. You may proceed then with your testimony, Mr. Browne.
STATEMENT OF ARTHUR E. BROWNE, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FRUIT
AND VEGETABLE DIVISION, CONSUMER AND MARKETING
Mr. BROWNE. Mr. Chairman, I have with me Mr. John J. Gardner of our Regulatory Branch; and Mr. James E. Horton of the Office of General Counsel, in the event there are questions the committee might wish to direct to these gentlemen, also.
S. 17 would repeal the U.S. Standard Container Acts of 1916 and 1928, effective January 1, 1967. These acts prescribe standard sizes and capacities for a limited number of types of baskets and hampers used in the shipment of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The Department recommends that S. 17 be passed.
Briefly, the act of August 31, 1916 (39 Stat. 673; 15 U.S.C. 251-256), commonly called the Standard Container Act of 1916, establishes standard sizes for climax baskets for grapes and other fruits and vegetables and fixes standards for baskets and other containers for small fruits, berries, and vegetables. The act provides for the examination of containers subject to regulation to determine their compliance with the law.
The act of May 21, 1928 (45 Stat. 685; 15 U.S.C. 257–257i), known as the Standard Container Act of 1928, establishes standard sizes for hampers, round-stave baskets, and splint baskets used for fresh fruits and vegetables. Specifications of containers covered by the act are submitted to and approved by the Department if such containers are of the prescribed capacity and not deceptive in appearance.
When the U.S. Standard Container Acts of 1916 and 1928 were enacted, the predominant types of containers used for the shipment of fresh fruits and vegetables were baskets, barrels, and hampers. At that time, because of the large number of sizes of containers being manufactured, a strong movement developed in the industry to bring about some degree of standardization in these containers.
In the years since the enactment of these acts, substantial changes have taken place in the types of containers used for shipping fresh fruits and vegetables. Baskets and hampers have largely been displaced by newer types of containers, such as boxes, lugs, crates, cartons, and bags.
In addition, the trend in trading in fruits and vegetables has been toward selling by weight or count, rather than by volumetric measure. As a result, it is estimated that less than 10 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables shipped in interstate commerce are now packed in containers regulated under the Standard Container Acts of 1916 and 1928.
Further, the number of manufacturers of baskets and hampers subject to these acts has declined steadily in recent years. For example, during the past 10 years, the number of such factories has declined from 148 to 95 and the number of different containers manufactured by these plants has dropped from 611 to 408.
In view of the limited volume of fresh fruits and vegetables currently being shipped in containers under the Standard Container Acts of 1916 and 1928, the continuing trend toward wider uses of types of containers not subject to Federal regulation, and the fact that most fruits and vegetables are now sold by weight or count, the Department believes that the continued administration of these two acts is no longer justified.
Furthermore, a savings of approximately $16,200 annually can be achieved through the repeal of these laws.
Mr. Roush. Mr. Browne, how is $16,200 saved annually? What is this money spent on now?
Mr. BROWNE. This is spent on the testing of containers which are subject to these laws. The administration of these acts is carried on primarily by the examination of samples of containers subject to the acts, which are submitted to the Department.
We maintain a testing laboratory where these samples are tested to determine whether they meet the requirements of the acts and if not, the container manufacturers are advised to adjust their equipment to bring them into compliance, and new samples are then submitted to determine whether they meet the requirements. This laboratory would be discontinued and the manpower which is now devoted to this would be devoted to other work.
Mr. Roush. I understand the Department directed an inquiry to the various States asking for an opinion as to whether or not this should be repealed, these two acts should be repealed, and that 12 States have responded in opposition to the repeal of these two acts. Is this correct?
Mr. BROWNE. This survey was conducted by the Department of Commerce and I believe Mr. Jensen is prepared to comment on that.
Mr. Roush. Is it your opinion that these acts as they exist now do or do not satisfy a useful purpose for the various States?
Mr. BROWNE. It is the Department's position that in view of the relatively small volume of fresh fruits and vegetables which are now moving in these containers, the cost of administration of these acts is not justified by the benefits, the limited benefits, which are to be gained from the continued administration of these acts.
Mr. Roush. It seems rather ironical that last week this subcommittee was conducting hearings which hopefully will bring about a greater standardization, and this week we are repealing acts which deal with standardization.
That is just a comment.
Mr. ANDERSON. Mr. Browne, on page 2 you mention that the trend in selling of fruits and vegetables is by weight and count rather than volumetric measure, and you say
As a result, it is estimated that less than ten percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables shipped in interstate commerce are now packed in containers regulated under the Standard Container Acts of 1916 and 1928.
Do I gather, then, roughly 90 percent of all transactions, no matter what the level is, is on the weight and count basis rather than volumetric at the present time?
Mr. BROWNE. That is probably true. The figure which I gave applies only to interstate shipments. These estimates were made several years ago, and based on the information that we have available, the percentage is undoubtedly lower today than it was at that time, the time the estimates were made.
What has been happening is that new types of containers have been coming into use for the shipment of many commodities-for example peaches: Only a few years ago it was the customary procedure to ship eastern peaches in baskets, subject to these acts. In recent years there has been a marked shift in the type of containers used for shipment of peaches. This is illustrated by the results of a study conducted by Clemson University on shipments from South Carolina, the leading Eastern State in the production of peaches. According to the results of this survey, during the 1959 season, 98 percent of all peaches shipped out of South Carolina were shipped in baskets subject to these acts.