Cancel OK

California Market Enforcement Branch

Reviewing the agency’s role in protecting state produce suppliers
Market Enforcement Branch

If you buy or sell fresh produce in the Golden State or anywhere in the United States, you know about the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA). But you may not be aware of the California Department of Agriculture’s Market Enforcement Branch (MEB). It is tempting to call it PACA’s little brother—but this would be inaccurate as the MEB actually predates PACA by two years.

“The Market Enforcement Branch was established in 1928 with the enactment of the Deciduous Fruit Dealers Act,” explains Laurene Chiesa, MEB surpervisor. “Since that time, its functions and responsibilities have evolved in response to industry needs, and it is responsible for enforcing the laws that the California legislature enacts in response to those needs and changes.”

Defining the MEB
As the produce industry has grown over the decades, the MEB has developed alongside it. Inconsistent and irregular market regulation spurred its creation in California, just before the Great Depression. In 1932 the Deciduous Fruit Dealers Act was repealed and replaced by the Produce Dealers Act, which regulated almost all farm products produced in California and significantly expanded the MEB’s purview.

The Processor’s Law was added in 1935 to regulate purchases from California farms for processing, and saw much government activity to regulate and stabilize the market. Parts of the law were altered repeatedly over the subsequent years, adding more to the MEB’s plate each time.

Most recently, 1998’s Senate Bill 1198 was a major turning point, making substantial shifts in the branch’s licensing, investigatory, and legal settlement powers, as well as changing how fees and revenue are collected.

With jurisdiction over the entire state of California, MEB maintains three main offices (in El Monte, San Francisco, and Sacramento) and nine field investigators, as well as a six-person staff to process licenses. Licensing and agent fees for purchasers, resellers, and processors of California-grown produce generate income for the agency, rather than tax revenues.

“The Market Enforcement Branch does not receive any California general fund money,” notes Chiesa. “The principal license fees are determined by the applicant’s annual dollar volume of business, based on the value of the farm products returned to the grower.”

In addition to handling licenses and generally interpreting and enforcing industry laws and standards, MEB acknowledges and mediates official complaints between growers, packers, and licensees, keeps industry members informed of their rights and responsibilities, and provides licensee data by area, commodity, and category. Its stated mission is to enforce the laws, ensure confidence in and stability to the market, and protect against unfair business practices. Areas of authority include all agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, vegetables, bee products, poultry, and livestock, excluding only timber, milk products, aquaculture, and bonded cattle.

Purpose & Operations
The Market Enforcement Branch serves the industry in a number of ways, and provides an increasing range of services.