WASHINGTON, August 1, 2022 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has imposed sanctions on two produce businesses for failing to meet contractual obligations to the sellers of produce they purchased and failing to pay reparation awards issued under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA). These sanctions include suspending the businesses’ PACA licenses and barring the principal operators of the businesses from engaging in PAA-licensed business or other activities without approval from USDA.
The following businesses and individuals are currently restricted from operating in the produce industry:
- Cariati Developers Incorporated, operating out of Meriden, Conn., for failing to pay a $20,648 award in favor of an Ohio seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Erica Maher was listed as the officer, director and major shareholder of the business.
- Growers Direct, Inc., operating out of Costa Mesa, Calif., for failing to pay a $4,165 award in favor of a California seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Lixin He was listed as the officer, director and major stockholder of the business.
PACA provides an administrative forum to handle disputes involving produce transactions; this 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.
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.
For more information, contact John Koller, Chief, Dispute Resolution Branch, at (202) 720-2890, or PACAdispute@usda.gov.
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 $165 million. PACA staff also assisted more than 6,600 callers with issues valued at approximately $169 million. These are just two examples of how USDA continues to support the fruit and vegetable industry.