USDA may revoke license for Visalia packing house

USDA says Old West Export, Inc. failed to pay more than $1 million for purchases from five produce sellers

The Sun-Gazette

VISALIA – A Visalia packing house may have its license revoked for three years for unfair trade practices.

On April 30, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) filed an administrative complaint against Old West Export Inc. in Visalia, Calif. for failing to pay more than $1 million to five produce sellers between March 2018 and November 2018. 

Old West Export Inc. will have an opportunity to request a hearing. Should USDA find that the company committed repeated and flagrant violations, it would be barred from the produce industry as a licensee for three years, or two years with the posting of a USDA-approved surety bond. 

The company was already under sanctions imposed by USDA last October for failing to pay a produce seller $187,393. The complaint and sanctions are part of the USDA’s efforts to enforce the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) and ensure fair trading practices within the U.S. produce industry. 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 sanctions suspended the businesses’ PACA license and barred the principal operators of the business from engaging in PACA-licensed business or other activities without approval from USDA. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Frances Murillo and Dave Muse were listed as the officers, directors and/or major stockholders of the business. Furthermore, its principals could not be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee for two years, or one year with the posting of a USDA-approved surety bond under the complaint.

PACA provides an administrative forum to handle disputes involving produce transactions; which 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 3,500 PACA claims involving more than $58 million. PACA staff also assisted more than 7,800 callers with issues valued at approximately $148 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 [email protected] regarding this matter.

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