The United States Department of Agriculture administers the Perishable Agriculture Commodities Act, known as PACA. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), maintains a PACA Division to regulate the buying and selling of produce (fruits and vegetables) in the United States. The USDA enforces PACA through the Administrative Law process. The USDA can discipline PACA licensees and individuals “responsibly connected” with these licensees. A USDA PACA disciplinary action can have wide ranging implications, including enormous fines.
The United States Department of Agriculture conducts investigations and pursues PACA license discipline against a number of individuals and entities. These individuals and entities include buyers, sellers, commission merchants, dealers and brokers. Formal USDA disciplinary Hearings are held at Field Offices throughout the United States before an Administrative Law Judge employed by the USDA. These USDA PACA Hearings are formal Court Hearings. In certain instances, no in person Hearing occurs. Regardless, the Agriculture Marketing Service is represented by a staff attorney. Thus, it is important to obtain representation from a USDA PACA Defense Attorney to fight for you and your business.
As stated above, the fines for PACA violations are staggering. It is not uncommon for fines to reach into six figures, or more. Furthermore, the USDA has the right to order Restitution for claimants who allege the failure to pay. PACA Administrative Law matters are complex. Therefore, PACA violators should obtain representation from a USDA PACA Defense Lawyer.
Individuals who are “reasonably connected” to PACA violating businesses face sanctions from the USDA. These sanctions can include restrictions on PACA activities, suspension from PACA activities, or a complete ban on all PACA related business. Furthermore, these restrictions can include a complete ban on any employment and affiliation with a PACA Licensee. These individuals may include sole proprietors, partners, members, managers, officers, directors and major stockholders. Individuals reasonably connected to PACA licensed businesses who face USDA disciplinary action should seek representation from a USDA PACA Defense Attorney.