Visalia company banned from produce industry

The Sun-Gazette

USDA imposes two-year ban on Old West Export, Inc. for its failure to pay $1 million owed to five produce sellers

VISALIA – The USDA has barred a Visalia exporter from the U.S. produce industry for the next two years for unfair trade practices.

On March 3, the U.S. Department of Agriculture imposed sanctions on Old West Export Inc. in Visalia, Calif., for violating the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA). Old West Export Inc. failed to pay $1,059,875 to five sellers for produce that was purchased, received and accepted in interstate and foreign commerce from March 2018 to November 2018. Old West Export Inc. cannot operate in the produce industry until Jan. 14, 2023, and then only after they apply for and are issued a new PACA license by USDA. The company’s number has been disconnected.

The company’s principals, Dave Muse and Frances Murillo, may not be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee until Jan. 14, 2022, and then only with the posting of a USDA approved surety bond.

USDA is required to publish the finding that a business has committed willful, repeated and flagrant violations of PACA as well as impose restrictions against those principals determined to be responsibly connected to the business during the violation period. 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.

USDA warned the packing house in April 2020 of the possible sanctions when it filed an administrative complaint for failure to pay the contracts from 2018. Old West has been stacking up violations since 2019, when USDA imposed sanctions on the company for failing to pay a produce seller $187,393.

The actions 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. 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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