Secured lenders extending financial accommodations to borrowers whose collateral includes perishable food items should consider certain specific risks associated with such collateral. Notably, the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act of 1930 (PACA) creates a statutory trust for the benefit of persons who originally sell the perishable agricultural commodities to such borrowers and are not paid. The PACA trust creates a tier of claims that “float above” the secured lenders’ priority interests in the perishable agricultural commodities. Thus, until all suppliers of perishable agricultural commodities to a borrower are paid in full, a secured lender’s security interests in the borrower’s collateral consisting of perishable agricultural commodities or the proceeds thereof are trumped by the sellers’ PACA claims. Types of borrowers whose collateral may be subject to these PACA statutory trusts include restaurants, grocery stores, or any other businesses that deal with perishable agricultural products.
The burden is on the borrower/PACA debtor (as opposed to the beneficiary of the PACA trust) to establish that the subject assets (including inventory and accounts receivable) are not PACA trust assets. See Sanzone-Palmisano C. V. M. Seaman Enterprises, 986 F.2d 1010 (6th Cir. 1993) (finding that the PACA debtor had the burden of proving the assets producing the commingled proceeds were not produce or related assets and thus not subject to a PACA trust). In certain instances, a lender may be able to avail itself to the bona fide purchaser defense and thus avoid the “floating” PACA claims. However, case law in this area makes it …
In this hypothetical, we will consider the following circumstances.
- “Farmer Bob” grows wheat (i.e., crops)
- “AgBank” has loaned Farmer Bob money secured in part by his wheat
- “Massive Grain Elevator” wants to purchase Farmer Bob’s wheat
Can Massive buy the wheat and not get the shaft from AgBank? It depends. In 1985 Congress passed the Food Security Act; the provision 7 U.S.C. Section 1961, titled Protection for Purchasers of Farm Products (FSA), constitutes a wholesale preemption of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). UCC Revised Article 9-320(a) provides that:
“a buyer in ordinary course of business, other than a person buying farm products from a person engaged in farming operations, take free of a security interest created by the buyer’s seller, even if the security interest is perfected and the buyer knows of its existence.”
In addition, Official Comment 4 to 9-320(a) provides that:
“this section does not enable a buyer of farm products to take free of the security interest created by the seller … however, a buyer of farm products may take free of a security interest under Section 1324 of the Food Security Act of 1985, 7. U.S.C. Section 1631″
Meanwhile, FSA Section 1324 provides that notwithstanding Article 9 of the UCC, farm product buyers, commission merchants and selling agents (buyers in ordinary course) take free of security interests in farm products created by sellers unless one of two exceptions applies: 1) direct notice or 2) special central filing.…
In a triumph of substance over form, on August 22, 2013, the Tenth Appellate District Court of Appeals disregarding self-serving labels and further clarified the distinction between a loan and a sale of accounts receivable in Fenway Financial, LLC dba Commission Express v. Greater Columbus Realty, LLC dba Keller Williams Greater Columbus Realty, LLC, No. 12AP-291. To cut to the chase, the Court found that regardless of the buzz words used, leaving the seller of an account receivable with the risk of collectability is a key factor in characterizing a transaction as a loan, not as a sale, and may implicate state loan licensing requirements and other statutes, including provisions dealing with the scope of UCC Article 9.…