Assessment rates funding the Florida Tomato Committee would increase more than 50% if a proposal published Dec. 26 is adapted.

The proposal from the Florida tomato industry would increase the funds collected by the Florida Tomato Committee, which administers the federal marketing order for Florida tomatoes from 2.4 cents to 3.75 cents per 25-pound carton in the 2013-14 season — 56% increase.

There are about 80 handlers of tomatoes and 100 producers subject to regulation under the Florida marketing order, according to the proposal. Comments on the proposal must be received by the USDA by Jan. 8, according to the USDA.

During an Aug. 22 public meeting, the Florida Tomato Committee unanimously recommended 2013-14 expenditures of $1.82 million and an assessment rate of 3.75 cents per 25-pound carton of Florida tomatoes, according to the proposal. Last year, budgeted expenditures were $1.67 million, but the committee depleted reserves to meet expenses from the past year. Because of that, the committee recommended raising the assessment rate to generate funds for its reserve, according to the USDA. Reserve funds are projected at $440,500 under the proposed assessment rate.

The revised assessment rate was determined by reviewing anticipated expenses, expected shipments of Florida tomatoes, income from interest, Market Access Program funds, specialty crop block grants and the need to build up reserve funds, according to the proposal.

Florida tomato shipments for the 2013-14 year (Aug. 1-July 31, 2014) are estimated at 35 million 25-pound cartons, according to the proposal, which should provide $1.31 million in assessments.

Florida tomato shipments during the 2012-13 season were 35.5 million 25-pound cartons, and sold for an average price of $10.64 per carton, according to the USDA.

For the upcoming season, the USDA projects the grower price should average about $9.73 per carton of tomatoes. The new assessment accounts for about 0.4% of the total grower revenue for the 2013-14 season, according to the proposal.

Major expenditures for the Florida Tomato Committee in the 2013-14 season are projected at $800,000 for education and promotion, $458,500 for salaries, and $300,000 for research. Budgeted expenses for these items in 2012-13 were $750,000, $436,372, and $250,000, respectively, according to the proposal.

For more information on the proposed increase, contact, Corey Elliott, USDA marketing specialist at (863) 324-3375 or