The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) slapped produce operations in Georgia and California with sanctions July 25 for failure to pay reparation awards issued under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA).

The following businesses and individuals are currently restricted from operating in the produce industry:

Countryland Farms LLC, operating out of Nashville, GA, for failing to pay a $24,200 award in favor of an Arizona seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Gerry Barfield was listed as a member of the business.

Vegwest Farms LLC, operating out of Vernon, CA, for failing to pay a $72,627 award in favor of a California seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Jose Luis 7 Echeverria Arellano and Pete Garcia were listed as members 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 part of Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), regulates fair trading practices of produce businesses that are operating subject to PACA includes buyers, sellers, commission merchants, dealers and brokers within the fruit and vegetable industry.

In the past three years, USDA resolved approximately 3,500 PACA claims involving more than $58 million. Our experts also assisted more than 8,000 callers with issues valued at approximately $140 million. These are just two examples of how USDA continues to support the fruit and vegetable industry.


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