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 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has imposed sanctions on five produce businesses for failing to meet their contractual obligations to the sellers of produce that 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.
The following businesses and individuals are currently restricted from operating in the produce industry:
●Triple Fresh Produce LLP, operating out of Nogales, Ariz., failed to pay a $5,130 award in favor of a Florida seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Adam Polan, and Manny Dinis were listed as partners of the business. Another principal of the business at the time of the order was Enrique “KiKi” Heredia. He has challenged his responsibly connected status.
●Bain Distributors Inc., operating out of Santa Fe Spring, Calif., failed to pay a $30,647 award in favor of a California seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Alfred Lares was listed as the officer, director and/or major stockholder of the business.
●Ultra Fresh LLC, operating out of Westwood, N.J., failed to pay a $61,319 award in favor of a Minnesota seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, William Hidalgo was listed as a member of the business.
●Fresh International Inc., operating out of Nashville, Tenn., failed to pay a $12,468 award in favor of a Missouri seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Jaquelina Lopez, Manuel Arroyo and Dulce Nieto were listed as the officers, directors and/or major stockholders of the business.
●Spring Creek Produce LLC, operating out of Greenfield, Tenn., failed to pay a $2,080 award in favor of a Minnesota seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Bobby Callins, Steven Willis, Jr., Phil Gordon and Chris Gordon were listed as members 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.
For more information regarding this matter, contact John Koller, Chief, Dispute Resolution Branch, at (202) 720-2890, by fax at (202) 690-2815, or by email at PACAdispute@usda.gov regarding this matter.