USDA Restricts PACA Violators in California, Florida, Ohio, Texas, and Washington from Operating in the Produce Industry
WASHINGTON, DC - As part of its efforts to enforce the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) and ensure fair trading practices within the U.S. produce industry, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has imposed sanctions on five produce businesses for failing to meet their contractual obligations to the sellers of produce they purchased and failing to pay reparation awards issued under the PACA. These sanctions include suspending the businesses’ PACA licenses and barring the principal operators of the businesses from engaging in PACA-licensed business or other activities without approval from USDA. By issuing these penalties, USDA continues to enforce the prompt and full payment for produce while protecting the rights of sellers and buyers in the marketplace.
According to a press release, the following businesses and individuals are currently restricted from operating in the produce industry:
- Academy Fruit Company LLC, operating out of Clovis, California, for failing to pay a $9,600 award in favor of an Illinois seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Jayson Paul Scarborough was listed as a member or manager of the business.
- Epic Fresh Produce LLC, operating out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, for failing to pay a $97,319 award in favor of an Arizona seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Mario Cardenas was listed a member or manager of the business.
- PK Produce Inc., operating out of Canton, Ohio, for failing to pay a $23,370 award in favor of a New York seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Paul Kasapis was listed as the officer, director and/or major stockholder of the business.
- EJ Produce Inc., operating out of Dallas, Texas, for failing to pay a $1,094 award in favor of a Texas seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Julio Guzman and Eugenio Cuellar were listed as the officers, directors and/or major stockholders of the business.
- Terra Organica Inc., operating out of Bellingham, Washington, for failing to pay a $15,706 award in favor of an Oregon seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Stephen Trinkaus was listed as the officer, director and/or major stockholder of the business.
PACA provides an administrative forum to handle disputes involving produce transactions; this may result in USDA’s issuance of a reparation order 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.