The controversial proposal, first published in the Federal Register on May 25 of last year, seeks to change the regulatory dates for mandatory quality standards for the Coachella Valley grape marketing order. The rule also would mean U.S. grape imports — primarily from Chile during March and April — would be subject to mandatory quality standards April 1. Regulations now require imported grapes to meet mandatory quality standards April 20.

By federal statute, imported fruit and vegetable commodities are subject to any domestic marketing order quality requirements in effect for the same commodity.

The new deadline for comments on the proposed rule is Sept. 11, more than a year after the original comment period was expected to end, last July.

The comment period has been extended several times, first from July 25 to Sept. 25, then to Nov. 28, and then again when a Freedom of Information Request was made by Chilean interests for all information cited in the proposed rule. The USDA has said it has released the information requested and extended the comment period to Sept. 11.

“I think the U.S. Department of Agriculture appropriately extended the comment period to give opportunity to comment on data not previously released,” said David Holzworth, Washington, D.C.-based legal counsel for the Chilean Exporters Association. Some of the data related to government inspection statistics.

Holzworth said he doesn’t expect the USDA to issue a final rule on the proposal until at least the end of the year.