7 CFR 248.16 - Administrative appeal of State agency decisions.
(a) Requirements. The State agency shall provide a hearing procedure whereby recipients, local agencies and farmers/farmers' markets adversely affected by certain actions of the State agency may appeal those actions. A recipient may appeal disqualification/suspension of FMNP benefits. A local agency may appeal an action of the State agency disqualifying it from participating in the FMNP. A farmer/farmers' market may appeal an action of the State agency denying its application to participate, imposing a sanction, or disqualifying it from participating in the FMNP. Expiration of a contract or agreement shall not be subject to appeal.
(b) Postponement pending decision. An adverse action may, at the State agency's option, be postponed until a decision in the appeal is rendered.
(1) In a case where an adverse action affects a local agency or farmer/farmers' market, a postponement is appropriate where the State agency finds that recipients would be unduly inconvenienced by the adverse action. In addition, the State agency may determine other relevant criteria to be considered in deciding whether or not to postpone an adverse action.
(2) In a case where a recipient appeals the termination of benefits, that recipient shall continue to receive FMNP benefits until the hearing official reaches a decision or the expiration of the current FMNP season, whichever occurs first. Applicants who are denied benefits may appeal the denial, but shall not receive benefits while awaiting the decision.
(c) Procedure. The State agency hearing procedure shall at a minimum provide the recipient, local agency or farmer/farmers' market with the following:
(1) Written notification of the adverse action, the cause(s) for the action, and the effective date of the action, including the State agency's determination of whether the action shall be postponed under paragraph (b) of this section if it is appealed, and the opportunity for a hearing. Such notification shall be provided within a reasonable timeframe established by the State agency and in advance of the effective date of the action.
(2) The opportunity to appeal the action within the time specified by the State agency in its notification of adverse action.
(3) Adequate advance notice of the time and place of the hearing to provide all parties involved sufficient time to prepare for the hearing.
(4) The opportunity to present its case and at least one opportunity to reschedule the hearing date upon specific request. The State agency may set standards on how many hearing dates can be scheduled, provided that a minimum of two hearing dates is allowed.
(5) The opportunity to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses.
(6) The opportunity to be represented by counsel, or in the case of a recipient appeal, by a representative designated by the recipient, if desired.
(7) The opportunity to review the case record prior to the hearing.
(8) An impartial decision maker, whose decision as to the validity of the State agency's action shall rest solely on the evidence presented at the hearing and the statutory and regulatory provisions governing the FMNP. The basis for the decision shall be stated in writing, although it need not amount to a full opinion or contain formal findings of fact and conclusions of law.
(9) Written notification of the decision in the appeal, within 60 days from the date of receipt of the request for a hearing by the State agency.
(d) Continuing responsibilities. Appealing an adverse action does not relieve a farmer/farmers' market or local agency permitted to continue in the FMNP while its appeal is pending, from responsibility for continued compliance with the terms of the written agreement or contract with the State agency.
(e) Judicial review. If a State level decision is rendered against the recipient, local agency or farmer/farmers' market and the appellant expresses an interest in pursuing a further review of the decision, the State agency shall explain any further State level review of the decision and any available State level rehearing process. If neither is available or both have been exhausted, the State agency shall explain the right to pursue judicial review of the decision.
(f) Additional appeals procedures for State agencies which authorize farmers' markets and not individual farmers. A State agency which authorizes farmers' markets and not individual farmers shall ensure that procedures are in place to be used when a farmer seeks to appeal an action of a farmers' market or association denying the farmer's application to participate, or sanctioning or disqualifying the farmer. The procedures shall be set forth in the State Plan and in the agreements entered by the State agency and the farmers' market and the farmers' market and the farmer.