Food safety issues and trying to restore profitability to an industry devastated by overproduction and low prices will be the focus of this year’s Joint Tomato Conference scheduled for Sept. 7-10 in Naples, Fla.

The 35th conference, co-sponsored by the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Committee and Florida Tomato Exchange, brings the state’s growers, shippers, repackers, brokers and others to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel to discuss industry issues.

“We are hoping to have a better year than we had last year,” said Reggie Brown, committee manager and exchange executive vice president.

“Last year was one of those years that everyone hopes we never have again in terms of weather and markets. We are hoping the market will again respond and we can sell the product for something more than the cost to grow it.”

The conference opens Sept. 7 with a food safety training workshop where Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services fruit and vegetable inspection division officials are set to discuss the standardization of the tomato audit metrics the exchange has been working on with United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

Florida’s tomato industry and regulatory officials have collaborated on those regulations and hope to have them completed by the meeting, Brown said.

During the Sept. 8 Florida Tomato Institute, Brown is scheduled to give growers his annual state of the Florida tomato industry talk.

Researchers from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are also scheduled to discuss tomato production research conducted over the last year.

On Sept. 9, the exchange and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange hold their annual meetings and officer elections.

Samantha Winters, the committee’s director of education and promotion, will present the state’s 2010-11 tomato promotional campaign.

The convention also features receptions, a dinner-dance and golf tournament.

Read more about the conference at