This Week in Weird Federal Crimes: AvocaDon’t Be Leakin’!

Collin Hart, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

Leaking. Leaking? Leaking! Turn on the news on any given (Sun)day and one is likely to hear a story on the topic of leaking. These stories of course refer to the leaking of information, not Carolina roofs. These stories may also acknowledge that leaking confidential information can be a serious criminal offense. Under federal law,[1] the leaking of certain information could subject the leaker to up to $10,000 in fines and up to one year in jail. While section 7809 sounds typical enough, it is not! Section 7809 does not criminalize the leaking of just any information, but only the leaking of confidential information from the National Hass Avocado Board.

 

While one may think that a national avocado board is a joke, the federal government does not. In 2000, Congress added Chapter 105 to Title 7 (the agriculture section) of the United States Code that created a National Hass Avocado Board.[2] In passing Chapter 105, Congress recognized the growing importance of Hass avocados[3] as both a food source and an agricultural commodity.[4] As such, Congress enacted Chapter 105 to create a mechanism to “promote,” “research,” and provide “information … necessary for the maintenance, expansion, and development of domestic markets for Hass avocados.”[5] The Board consist of members representing both domestic producers and importers.[6] The main function of the Board is to propose, develop, and implement plans and projects that will provide greater information for consumers, develop new domestic avocado markets, maintain and expand existing markets, and enhance the image of the Hass avocado industry.[7] Essentially, the Board’s mission is to facilitate the expansion of the domestic Hass avocado market.

To carry out this mission, the Board has authority to require avocado producers and importers to compile and report information that the Board can use to develop market strategies.[8] In order to protect the producers and importers, all staff and agents of the Board must keep reported information confidential.[9] To ensure confidentially, Congress also enacted an enforcement provision for Chapter 105 stating that any “person who violates a provision of [Chapter 105] … may be assessed … a civil penalty of not less than $1,000 nor more than $10,000 for each violation.”[10] Furthermore, Congress added a specific enforcement provision for the confidentially provisions of the Chapter stating that “any person who knowingly violates” the confidentially requirements “shall be subject to a fine of not less $1,000 nor more than $10,000 or to imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or both.”[11] Thus, if Steamin Willie Beamen finds himself on the National Hass Avocado Board and subsequently leaks confidential information to Tony D’Amota, Steamin could go to jail for a year and be subject to a $10,000 fine.

The moral of the story is that the government does not look kindly upon avocado leakers. So, if one finds themselves on the National Hass Avocado Board it would behoove them to keep that information locked down!

 

 

[1] 7 U.S.C.A. § 7809(b)(2000).

[2] See 7 U.S.C.A. §§7801-7813.

[3] Hass avocados are one of several types of avocados

[4] Id. § 7801. (Noting that Hass avocados are an “integral food source” and a “significant tree fruit crop” in the U.S.)

[5] Id.

[6] Id. § 7804.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id. § 7807.

[11] Id. § 7809.

 

Photo taken from Wiki Commons