(Feb. 4, 3:15 p.m.) Ag-Mart Inc., which does business as Santa Sweets
Inc., plans to fight New Jersey allegations that it misused pesticides
and jeopardized the health of its workers.

In a Jan. 29
enforcement action, the New Jersey Department of Environmental
Protection fined Plant City, Fla.-based Ag-Mart $931,000 in what the
agency called an unprecedented penalty for hundreds of alleged
violations at Ag-Mart's Cedarville, N.J., farms and packinghouses.

has repeatedly shown a stunning disregard of laws and regulations
intended to protect the workers who harvest their tomatoes, the people
who consume them and New Jersey's environment," agency commissioner
Mark Mauriello said in a statement. "Ag-Mart's pesticide violations are
the most serious DEP inspectors have ever uncovered. We have imposed a
record-high penalty not only to hold Ag-Mart accountable for their
failure, but to make sure it doesn't happen again."

O'Riordan, a lawyer representing Ag-Mart, said $780,000 of the fine
involves paperwork on field spray tickets. He said agency inspectors in
2003 -- a few years before the agency claims Ag-Mart violated pesticide
handling rules 2005-07 -- found nothing wrong with the grower-shipper's

"It's hard for me to understand how this is a
stunning violation of the law," O'Riordan said. "They didn't say
anything about this before. To come out with those kinds of
inflammatory statements is unfortunate and is a gross accusation. We
are going to vigorously challenge this and tackle every allegation."

said Ag-Mart successfully challenged similar accusations in other
states. Ag-Mart had all allegations dismissed in a 2005 Florida case
and had the majority of allegations removed in a 2006 North Carolina
case. A hearing on the remaining allegations is pending before the
North Carolina environmental board, O'Riordan said.

Ag-Mart is owned by Joseph Procacci, who also owns the Philadelphia-based Procacci Bros. Sales Corp.