Tomato grower says industry initiative should help

[CORRECTION: the Produce Traceability Initiative is an industry program, NOT an FDA program]

A U.S. commercial tomato grower says his operation is still dealing with the effects of last year’s salmonella scare along with other challenges.  AgMart Produce grows tomatoes in New Jersey, North Carolina and Florida.  Tomatoes were targeted in the federal government’s long running investigation last year into what was causing salmonella sickness.  But after weeks of urging consumers to not buy certain tomatoes, the Food and Drug Administration, announced that jalapeno and Serrano peppers, not tomatoes, were the cause.  Kevin Delaney is director of corporate sustainability and productivity at AgMart, “You know, with the mix of that and the economy, the tomato markets remain very low-priced. There was a ton of losses. I mean, millions and millions of dollars across the tomato industry. I think we’re still trying to recover some consumer confidence from that.”

Delaney says it may be awhile before things turn around, but the industry’s Produce Traceability Initiative will assist the FDA in its investigations. Delaney says, “(It is) going to increase the efficiency of tracing product to (its) source. Which, I think, will assist the FDA in making quicker decisions in being able to find when they do have a problem and where (that problem) came from.”

Adding to the concerns, Delaney says, is the development of late blight – especially in the northeast states – where he’s read that some organic growers have had to spray and lose their organic certification in order to salvage their crop. As for AgMart, Delaney tells Brownfield, “Luckily, we haven’t had to face that decision. I’m sure that would be a challenging one.”

He says AgMart, which is part organic and part conventional production, has so far been able to contain late blight to a few acres.

Ag-Mart Produce

AUDIO: Kevin Delaney, Ag-Mart Produce (4:30 min., MP3)

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