Opinion: Buyers can often embellish PACA opinions on disputed loads

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Opinion: Buyers can often embellish PACA opinions on disputed loads

By Western Growers director for trade practices and commodity services, Tom Oliveri

As a shipper with a problem load of produce at destination, you should never depend on your customer (buyer) informing you that he or she has already obtained an opinion from the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) regional office that it was a shipper problem.

Many times buyers will contact the PACA for advice and an opinion on a situation; however, sometimes they may inadvertently fail to give all the pertinent facts to the PACA when seeking an informal real time opinion.

Sometimes the buyer will even “shop around” by calling different PACA regional offices until they receive the favorable opinion they were seeking. When a customer (buyer) omits just one critical fact to the PACA in framing the situation pertaining to a problem load of produce, the entire opinion given by the PACA could be compromised.

I always encourage Western Growers regular members to contact Western Growers Trade Practices & Commodity Services Department, aka me, to discuss the particulars of any disputed transaction. 

In a brief phone conversation of three to five minutes, I will ask all the pertinent questions in order to provide an opinion on how your disputed matter could be ruled upon if the PACA Hearing Officer were to issue a formal Decision and Order.  

While my guidance is only an opinion, it will be based on PACA case law (previous precedent decisions) and many years of experience in dealing with both PACA and Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC) complaints. In giving you advice, I try to be pragmatic with my guidance in order to make certain you know your rights and remedies, and can therefore make an informed business decisions with your buyer.

It’s not a question of whether or not to trust your customers, but it is always a good business practice to get a second opinion. The process is also educational so that when, or if, another similar scenario would ever present itself, you are prepared with an appropriate response.

Calculating compliance with good delivery at contract destination can be complex at times. Western Growers regular members can utilize my services to review and help you interpret your USDA inspections, or provide direct assistance in filing PACA or DRC complaints. Get that Second opinion if you’re in doubt! Please email me at TommyO@wga.com with a copy of the USDA inspection certificate or call me at (949) 885-2269. 

*This column originally appeared on the Western Growers website and his been published with the association's permission. 


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