A leading tomato grower-shipper said he doesnât think what Florida experienced with a farmworkers group could be exported to other tomato-producing states.
Industry observers say grower-shippers of other commodities, however, should keep an eye on the Florida situation.
J.M. Procacci, vice chairman of Gargiulo Inc., Naples, Fla., and chief operating officer of Ag-Mart Produce Inc., which does business as Santa Sweets Inc., Plant City, Fla., said he thinks the Coalition of Immokalee Workers issue is limited to Florida.
Because East Coast production regions in Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia and New Jersey are small tomato deals that donât have growers associations as organized as the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, Procacci said he doesnât foresee similar workers groups forming in other tomato growing regions â including California.
California, which has more processing tomato acreage, employs mechanical harvesters and isnât as labor-intensive as in Florida, he said.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, processing tomatoes account for 89% of Californiaâs tomato acreage.
Procacci said labor groups havenât approached him on any of his East Coast farms.
Many Florida tomato grower-shippers contacted for this article declined to comment on the decision, calling it a controversial issue.
Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland, said the FFVA hasnât been that close to the controversy but the produce industry needs to watch the issue.
âI have thought for a long time that the industry needs to be paying attention to whatâs going on here because there are potential downstream implications from any type of move like this,â he said. âThis isnât limited to Florida and is something that could apply anywhere.â