(Feb. 6) There can be no doubt that produce suppliers will never willingly lose their trust protection under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.

The trust protection provision stipulates that fruit and vegetable suppliers are the first creditors in line in the event of a bankruptcy or business failure.

This unique protection has been called outdated by its critics, which include banks and some retailers. In fact, opponents of the PACA trust tried to repeal the act in 1995.

Today, there may be a more subtle threat to PACA trust protection.

While refusal of PACA trust language in electronic data interchange transactions has never come up in a court case, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is doing the right thing by taking comments on this issue.

Responding to concerns raised by the Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee last year, the USDA wants to determine whether there is a way to clearly spell out that PACA trust rights are preserved in EDI transactions, whether or not buyers download the required trust language.

Everyone from grower-shippers to retailers should participate in the rule making to preserve the efficiency of EDI transactions without sacrificing the non-negotiable element of PACA trust protection.