April 27, 2022

Trust But Verify: Get That 2nd Opinion on Problem Loads

As a produce shipper with a reported problem load at contract destination, you shouldn’t solely depend on your 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 PACA for advice and an opinion on a scenario; however, sometimes they may inadvertently fail to give all the pertinent facts to 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 someone omits just one critical fact from PACA in framing the scenario pertaining to a problem load of produce, the entire opinion given by PACA could be compromised.

It is always encouraged for Western Growers (WG) shipper members to contact WG’s Trade Practices Department to discuss the particulars of any disputed transaction. With just a brief phone conversation, I will ask all the pertinent questions in order to provide an opinion on how your disputed matter could be ruled upon if a 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 (precedent decisions) and years of experience assisting shipper members through formal proceedings. 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 better informed business decisions with your buyer.

It’s not a question of whether or not to trust your customers, rather it’s always a good business practice to verify by getting a valid second or third opinion. The process is also educational so that if/when another similar scenario would ever present itself, you are prepared with appropriate action and response.

Calculating compliance with good delivery at contract destination can be complex at times. WG shipper 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 2nd opinion if you’re in doubt! You can always contact me at 949.885.2392 or [email protected].