WASHINGTON, April 2, 2021 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reached a consent decision on Jan. 15, 2021, against Michelle L. Harnish, d.b.a. Wyalusing Livestock Market and Auction (Ms. Harnish) of Rome, Pa., for alleged violations of the Packers and Stockyards (P&S) Act.
An investigation by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) revealed that from Dec. 31, 2016, through March 3, 2017, Ms. Harnish failed to maintain her custodial account, resulting in custodial shortages of $63,108 on Dec. 31, 2016, and $62,957 on March 3, 2017. A custodial account is a trust account designated for shippers’ proceeds from the sale of livestock in trust for sellers. The custodial account shortages were due, in part, to Ms. Harnish’ misuse of custodial account funds by failing to deposit funds equal to the proceeds receivable from livestock sales.
The investigation also found that Ms. Harnish was operating while insolvent. Under the P&S Act, the principal test of insolvency is whether a person’s current liabilities exceed their current assets. As of Dec. 31, 2016, Ms. Harnish’s current liabilities exceeded her current assets by $120,293. As of March 3, 2017, her current liabilities exceeded her current assets by $101,435.
Operating with custodial account shortages and operating while insolvent are violations of the P&S Act. These practices place livestock sellers at risk of not being paid fully or promptly.
Under the consent decision, Ms. Harnish must cease and desist from failing to properly use and maintain the custodial account and operating while current liabilities exceed her current assets. Ms. Harnish must pay an assessed $6,000 civil penalty. She must also submit periodic special reports to AMS, so AMS can monitor the balance of her custodial account and her financial status. If she does not comply with these requirements her registration to operate in any capacity subject to the Act will be suspended for 14 days.
The P&S Act is a fair-trade practice and payment protection law that promotes fair and competitive marketing environments for the livestock, meat, and poultry industries.
For further information about the Packers and Stockyards Act, contact Jeana Harbison, Packers and Stockyards Division, at (202) 720-7051, or by email at Jeana.M.Harbison@usda.gov.