A leading tomato grower-shipper said he doesn’t think what Florida experienced with a farmworkers group could be exported to other tomato-producing states.

Grower-shippers concerned CIW tactics could spread

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 don’t have growers associations as organized as the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, Procacci said he doesn’t foresee similar workers groups forming in other tomato growing regions — including California.

California, which has more processing tomato acreage, employs mechanical harvesters and isn’t as labor-intensive as in Florida, he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, processing tomatoes account for 89% of California’s tomato acreage.

Procacci said labor groups haven’t 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.

Grower-shippers concerned CIW tactics could spread

Stuart

Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland, said the FFVA hasn’t been that close to the controversy but the produce industry needs to watch the issue.

“I have thought for a long time that the industry needs to be paying attention to what’s going on here because there are potential downstream implications from any type of move like this,” he said. “This isn’t limited to Florida and is something that could apply anywhere.”