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In Case You Missed It – PACA Trust Rights in Bankruptcy are Just Plain Old Secured Claims

Happy 2018!  We at The Bankruptcy Cave have been itching to write about the Cherry Growers Chapter 11 case – which really is ground-breaking – but the holidays, life, and yes, work for clients too, all just got in the way.  But with each passing week, the case stayed on our minds.  So now that time permits, here is the writeup – and see below for the remarkable significance of the case.

In re Cherry Growers (now reported at 576 B.R. 569, Bankr. W.D. Mich. 2017), is a garden-variety produce-related bankruptcy case.  (Ha ha, “garden-variety” produce, get it?)  The Debtor bought produce and sold it to others, in addition to conducting other food distribution activities.  When the Debtor filed for bankruptcy, there was the typical push-and-pull between a lender secured by the Debtor’s inventory and a/r, and a supplier claiming a trust interest in those same assets, protected by the

Fifth Circuit Rules for PACA Claimants, and Weakens PACA, All in One Curious Ruling

Set of colored vegetables for kids

Most restructuring practitioners are aware, either vaguely or through punishing experience, of the power of PACA creditors.  PACA (or the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, 7 U.S.C. § 499a et seq. for those who hate brevity) requires that buyers of produce hold such produce – and their proceeds – in trust for the benefit of produce sellers.  General creditors of the produce buyer receive nothing, even if they hold a lien on the buyer’s assets, until produce sellers are paid in full on any valid PACA claims (including their interest and attorneys’ fees in most instances).

But sometimes, or many times, the PACA trust assets needed to pay produce sellers are not present.  Accounts must be collected, by use of employees, lawyers, collection agents, or

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