USDA Restricts PACA Violators in California, Florida and Georgia from Operating in the Produce Industry
- by Jessica Donnel
WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has imposed sanctions on four produce businesses for failure to pay reparation awards issued under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA).
According to a press release from the USDA, the following businesses and individuals are currently restricted from operating in the produce industry:
- JW Produce Inc., operating out of Watsonville, California, for failing to pay a $27,223 award in favor of a California seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Veronica Martinez Vazquez was listed as the officer, director and major stockholder of the business.
- Listo Produce Inc., operating out of Los Angeles, California, for failing to pay a $1,484 award in favor of a California seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Pedro L. Astorga was listed as the officer, director and major stockholder of the business.
- So Fresh Wholesale Corp., operating out of Weston, Florida, for failing to pay a $4,472 award in favor of a Florida seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Mitchel G. Brandfon and Robert Vesco were listed as the officers, directors and/or major stockholders of the business.
- Weng Farms Inc., operating out of Garden City, Georgia, for failing to pay an $84,897 award in favor of an Oregon seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Liya Weng was listed as the officer, director and stockholder of the business.
PACA provides an administrative forum to handle disputes involving produce transactions; this may result in a reparation order being issued that requires damages to be paid by those not meeting their contractual obligations in buying and selling fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. USDA is required to suspend the license or impose sanctions on an unlicensed business that fails to pay PACA reparations awarded against it as well as impose restrictions against those principals determined to be responsibly connected to the business when the order is issued. Those individuals, including sole proprietors, partners, members, managers, officers, directors, or major stockholders, may not be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee without USDA approval.
The PACA Division, which is in the Fair Trade Practices Program in the Agricultural Marketing Service, regulates fair trading practices of produce businesses that are operating subject to PACA, including buyers, sellers, commission merchants, dealers, and brokers within the fruit and vegetable industry.
In the past three years, USDA resolved approximately 3,350 PACA claims involving more than $63 million. PACA staff also assisted more than 8,000 callers with issues valued at approximately $156 million. These are just two examples of how USDA continues to support the fruit and vegetable industry.