By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
A major fruit distributor has been accused of shortchanging a California farm for strawberries in violation of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.
DG Berry, a farm in Santa Barbara County, has filed a complaint in federal court claiming that Driscoll's of Watsonville, Calif., underpaid it for strawberries by more than $255,000 in 2010 and 2011.
Driscoll's could not be reached for comment by deadline.
According to the complaint, Driscoll's contracted with the farm to "grow, harvest and deliver" its proprietary strawberry cultivars in exchange for a fee based on fresh prices for the crop.
The contract stated that Driscoll's could divert some of the strawberries for freezing, juicing or canning but would nonetheless pay DG Berry at the same rate as for fresh sales, the complaint alleges.
The complaint claims that Driscoll's failed to pay the full amount for strawberries that were later juiced or frozen in violation of the contract, PACA and other laws.
DG Berry also alleges that Driscoll's underpaid it by about $186,000 for harvesting strawberries between 2009 and 2011 when the picking costs proved higher than initially estimated.
The complaint claims the strawberry cultivars "were not well suited for commercial production" in the area but Driscoll's failed to adjust for the difference.
The lawsuit also claims that DG Berry suffered damages when Driscoll's failed to deliver the right mix of strawberry varieties the farm previously ordered for planting.