WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2022 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has imposed sanctions on five 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 PACA-licensed business or other activities without approval from USDA.
The following businesses and individuals are currently restricted from operating in the produce industry:
- Melonco LLC, operating out of Chandler, Ariz., for failing to pay a $159,143 award in favor of an Arizona seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Billan K. Balbir was listed as the member and manager of the business.
- Monarca Family Farms LLC, operating out of Los Angeles, Calif., for failing to pay a $253,710 award in favor of a California seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Kimberly Espinoza was listed as the member and manager of the business.
- Berry & Sons Produce LLC, operating out of Bunnell, Fla., for failing to pay a $9,487 award in favor of a North Carolina seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Karlin Berry and Adrianna Campbell were listed as members of the business.
- Chandler Topic Company Inc., operating out of Minnetonka, Minn., for failing to pay a $60,853 award in favor of a Texas seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, William Jones and William Jones, Jr., were listed as the officers, directors and major stockholders of the business.
- Kay Lookash Produce, operating out of Vineland, N.J., for failing to pay a $21,300 award in favor of a Texas seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Kelly Nakash, 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, by fax at (202) 260-8575, 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.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
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