Since it won't be very long before Georgia heads into the peak season for fruits and vegetables, produce dealers and farmers are reminded by the Georgia Department of Agriculture of the requirements set forth in the Dealer in Agricultural Products law.
State law requires that anyone engaged in the business of buying Georgia agricultural products must be licensed and bonded by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. This law covers out-of-state buyers of Georgia commodities, as well as those within the state. The only dealers who are exempt are those who certify that they buy exclusively in cash.
In addition, dealers who purchase agricultural products are required to pay for the commodities within 20 days following delivery in the absence of a written contract.
Both agricultural product dealers and farm producers also are required to jointly issue a certificate of receipt and quality to the producer or the producer's agent. The certificate of receipt and quality must include the following information: name and address of the agricultural product dealer; name and address of the producer; delivery date and time of receipt; description of the product as to identity, quantity, quality, condition, and grade of the product; price per unit and terms of the transaction.
"Even with the bonding program and the requirements for prompt payment, nothing takes the place of a properly-written contract when farmers and buyers are dealing with perishable products," said Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black.
Farmers are advised to require proof of bonding from buyers, even if they have dealt with the dealer in the past. Without these precautions, there is little recourse at the state level to recover losses if a produce dealer goes bankrupt or otherwise defaults on his or her obligations. Likewise a produce dealer may have difficulty in substantiating the actual condition of the produce purchased if it is received in poor condition. Producers who have any questions or concerns are advised to call the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
For information on bonded dealers or the licensing and bonding procedures, call the Department's Bonding Office at 404-656-3725 or 1-800-282-5852, Ext. 3725 (toll-free in Georgia). These are the telephone numbers to call if you have a bonding problem.