WASHINGTON, July 31, 2020 – As part of its efforts to enforce the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) and ensure fair trading practices within the U.S. produce industry, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has imposed sanctions on three produce businesses for failing to meet their contractual obligations to the sellers of produce they purchased and failing to pay reparation awards issued under the 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. 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 following businesses and individuals are currently restricted from operating in the produce industry:
- Lonestar Produce Express LLC, operating out of San Antonio, Texas, for failing to pay a $48,735 award in favor of a Texas seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Leonidez Fernandez III and Eric Fernandez were listed as members of the business.
AguiGato LLC, operating out of McAllen, Texas, for failing to pay a $4,130 award in favor of a Texas seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Erica Aguirre was listed as the sole member and manager of the business.
Luna Wholesale Inc., doing business as Mexluna Produce Stand, operating out of Houston, Texas, for failing to pay a $37,404 award in favor of a Texas seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Rodolfo Luna and Teresa Luna were listed as officers, directors and/or major stockholders 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.
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 $58 million. PACA staff also assisted more than 7,800 callers with issues valued at approximately $148 million. These are just two examples of how USDA continues to support the fruit and vegetable industry.
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 PACAdispute@usda.gov regarding this matter.
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