(Oct. 14, 12:00 p.m.) Efforts to compensate U.S. tomato growers that suffered financial losses during the Food and Drug Administration’s Salmonella Saintpaul investigation have stalled in Washington, D.C.

Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, Maitland, said Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., vows to block any Senate compensation plan because of concerns over an unrelated issue.

That issue is a dispute between a group of senators and the Florida tomato industry over the Coalition of Immokalee Workers farmworker group to have fast-food giants pay tomato workers an extra penny per pound.

“It’s hung in the Senate on the threat of Sen. Sanders putting a hold on it,” Brown said. “It’s unfortunate he still holds the view he does that our tomato industry is not a fair and equitable employer, but we in fact are. The bulk of the compensation would go to the people that don’t have anything to do with the issue Sen. Sanders is concerned about.”

Brown, who was in Washington, D.C., Oct. 13 attending an FDA hearing, said he was on the phone with the industry’s lobbyist and planned to make the rounds to see what opportunities the industry could gain.

Brown said the industry hasn’t given up on the issue and vows to work for “just and fair compensation” after a “major screw-up by the government.”

Brown said a July estimate had tomato grower-shippers in Florida, California, Georgia, South Carolina and parts of Arkansas who shipped product during the outbreak sustaining $140 million in losses.

Bob Spencer, vice president and sales manager of West Coast Tomato Inc., Palmetto, Fla. expressed disappointment over the issue.

“It’s a shame that these senators have chosen to grandstand because of political purposes instead of governing,” Spencer said. “To me, it’s evidence of what’s wrong with Washington. Politicians are more concerned about making themselves look good rather than doing what’s best for the country.”

West Coast Tomato plans to begin picking its north Florida and south Georgia tomatoes on Oct. 20. The grower-shipper plans to start its Palmetto-Ruskin harvest by the end of October.