7 CFR 46.32 - Duties of growers' agents.
(a) General. The duties, responsibilities, and extent of the authority of a growers' agent depend on the type of contract made with the growers. Agreements between growers and agents should be reduced to a written contract clearly defining the duties and responsibilities of both parties and the extent of the agent's authority in distributing the produce. When such agreements between the parties are not reduced to written contracts, the agent shall have available a written statement describing the terms and conditions under which he will handle the produce of the grower during the current season and shall mail or deliver this statement to the grower on or before receipt of the first lot. A grower will be considered to have agreed to these terms if, after receiving such statement, he delivers his produce to the agent for handling in the usual manner. In the event an unsolicited lot of produce is accepted by an agent for handling in his usual manner, he shall promptly deliver or mail a copy of such statement to the grower. A copy of this statement, showing the name of the grower and the date the statement was delivered to the grower, shall be retained in the agent's files. An agent who does not have in his files either written contracts or a written statement as required herein is failing to prepare and maintain full and complete records as required by the Act. Provided, That regulations or bylaws of cooperative marketing associations may be used in lieu of individual agreements or contracts to determine the methods of accounting and settlement with their grower members. An agent who fails to perform any specification or duty, express or implied, is in violation of the Act and may be held liable for any damages resulting therefrom and for other penalties provided under the Act for such failure.
(b) Accounting for charges. A growers' agent whose operations include such services as the planting, harvesting, grading, packing, furnishing of containers or other supplies, storing, selling or distributing produce for or on behalf of growers shall prepare and maintain complete records on all transactions in sufficient detail as to be readily understood and audited. Agents must be in a position to render to the growers accurate and detailed accountings covering all aspects of their handling of the produce. Agents shall maintain a record of all produce received in the form of a book (preferably a bound book) with numbered pages or comparable business records, showing for each lot the date received, quantity, the kind of produce and the name and address of the grower. Agents shall issue receipts to growers and others for all produce received. A lot number or other positive means of identification shall be assigned to each lot in order to segregate the various lots of produce received from different growers from similar produce being handled at the same time. Each lot shall be so identified and segregated throughout all operations conducted by the agent, including the sale or other disposition of the produce. The records shall show the result of all packing and grading operations, including the quantity lost through packing and grading and the quantity and quality packed out. If the culls are sold, they shall be included in the accounting. Unless there is a specific agreement with the growers to pool all various growers' produce, the accounting to each of the growers shall itemize the actual expenses incurred for the various operations conducted by the agent and all the details of the disposition of the produce received from each grower including all sales, adjustments, rejections, details of consigned or jointed shipments and sales through brokers, auctions, and status of all claims filed with or collected from the carriers. The agent shall prepare and maintain full and complete records on all details of such distribution to provide supporting evidence for the accounting. If an agent is working under a pool agreement with growers, the accounting shall show how the pool cost and pool sales prices are computed. If the agent and the growers have agreed on a fixed charge to cover the various operations conducted by the agent, actual expenses incurred for these services covered by the agreement are not required to be shown in the accounting. The failure of the agent to render prompt, accurate and detailed accountings in accordance with § 46.2 (z) and (aa), is a violation of the Act.
(c) Sales through brokers or auctions. Unless a growers' agent is specifically authorized in his contract with the growers to use the services of brokers, commission merchants, joint partners, or auctions, he is not entitled to use these methods of marketing the growers' produce. Any expense incurred for such services, without the growers' permission, cannot be charged to the growers.
(d) Filing of carrier claims. Without the prior consent of the growers, an agent has no authority to file claims with the carriers in his own name or any other name. An agent has no obligation to file carrier claims on shipments for growers in the absence of a specific agreement to perform these duties. All information which an agent has received in handling the shipment which is essential for the growers to file such claims shall be made available to the growers. If an agent has an agreement with the growers to file and handle carrier claims, he shall exercise reasonable care in handling the claims with the carriers by filing the claim promptly in the proper amount, supported by adequate evidence, and take any necessary action to bring the matter to a conclusion.
(e) Purchases and sales by growers' agents. A person who operates in a dual capacity, both as a growers' agent and as a shipper, shall clearly disclose his status in each transaction to all parties with whom he is dealing. If such a person misrepresents himself as an agent, when he is acting as a shipper selling produce he has purchased, he shall be considered to have violated the Act. A growers' agent shall not charge or receive a fee from the seller or the buyer when he purchases or sells produce as a shipper. A growers' agent shall not negotiate a transaction where he is subject to the direct or indirect control of any party to such transactions, other than his principal, or where the other party is subject to the agent's direct or indirect control, without fully disclosing the circumstances to his principal and obtaining his specific prior approval.
(f) Negligence of agent. A growers' agent may be held liable for any loss or damage resulting to the growers due to his negligence or failure to perform any specification or duty, express or implied, arising out of any undertaking in connection with transactions subject to the Act.
(g) Responsibility for payment. An agent is not responsible for the payment by the buyer who has purchased the growers' produce on credit, unless he guarantees payment or is negligent in extending credit. Agreement to collect from the buyer and remit to his principal is not a guarantee by the agent that the agent will pay if the buyer does not pay.
(h) Responsibility for payment of selling fees and expenses to the growers' agent. In the absence of a specific agreement to the contrary, the agent does not guarantee the performance of the contracting parties and he is entitled to the payment of his selling fees and expenses incurred in handling the produce of growers or others, providing he fully performs his duties as agent.
(i) Agent's financial responsibility to buyers for failure to comply with contracts. If a growers' agent contracts in his own name to deliver produce to a buyer and subsequently cannot deliver produce complying with the contract because the growers cannot or will not deliver such produce to him, he may be liable to the buyer for damages resulting from the breach of the contract.