As part of its efforts to enforce the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) and ensure fair trading practices within the US produce industry, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced this week it has filed an administrative complaint against Bella Fresh Houston.
The company, operating from Texas, allegedly failed to make payment promptly to 10 produce sellers in the amount of $3,154,711 from December 2017 through May 2019.
Bella Fresh Houston will have an opportunity to request a hearing. Should USDA find that the company committed repeated and flagrant violations, it would be barred from the produce industry as a licensee for three years, or two years with the posting of a USDA-approved surety bond. Furthermore, its principals could not be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee for two years, or one year with the posting of a USDA-approved surety bond.
The PACA Division, which is a part of AMS’ Fair Trade Practices Program, regulates fair trading practices of produce businesses that are operating subject to the 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 the USDA continues to support the fruit and vegetable industry.