Rudman and Wright suggested that selling agents keep paperwork for two years to prove compliance.
In his presentation, Wright pointed out what constitutes violations of the suspension agreement and possible violation of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.
“PACA is not a party to the suspension agreement but the actions of a PACA licensee or a firm operating subject to a license which violates the suspension agreement may constitute an unfair trade practice, which would violate the PACA,” he said.
An example of a violation of the agreement and PACA, he said, would be if a selling agent issues a false invoice to hide the actual sales price of tomatoes,” he said.
In order for PACA to start an investigation, Wright said the USDA must receive written notification. Upon receiving an allegation, Wright said PACA will examine the allegation and determine whether to investigate, issue a warning letter or perhaps issue an administrative complaint. Any allegation or notification should include as much detail and documentation as possible, he said.
“The identity of the person providing written notification will not be released by PACA by statutory prohibition, he said. Fines and suspension to a PACA licensee if they don’t cooperate with an investigation, he said.
Flagrant, repeated violations such as false accounting and alternations of inspection certificates can result in suspension of PACA licenses, personal sanctions or civil penalties, he said.
One participant said the 90-minute event was helpful.
“A lot of the information we knew already but there was some new information that came out,” said Charlie Everette, quality and claims manager for Apache Produce, Nogales, Ariz.
In particular, Everette said the 15% rule was something he had not been aware of.
“Someone asked what happens if someone is not a part of the agreement and (Rudman said) they can just bring their tomatoes in,” he said. “In other words, 15% can bring them in and not have any application to the agreement.”
Everette also said that he learned that various paperwork forms dealing with processed tomatoes and instructions on how to apply adjustments based on inspection results are also on the Commerce website.
Because the web seminar did cover so much ground, Everette said it will be valuable to have the copies of the presentations.
NOTE ON UPDATE: The story contains a clarification on exemptions relating to the 85% rule.