(Nov. 11) One of the largest fresh tomato growers and handlers is asking the Florida Tomato Committee to lift its requirement that Florida-grown heirloom tomatoes meet quality standards before being allowed to be marketed outside of Florida.

For the past three years, Philadelphia-based Procacci Bros. Sales Corp. has been shipping its trademarked Ugly Ripe tomatoes through grower subsidiaries Santa Sweets Inc., Plant City, Fla., and Gargiulo Inc., Naples, Fla. An experimental use permit has exempted shipments of the Ugly Ripes — so named because of their high shoulders and misshapen appearance — from the committee’s size and grade requirements.

The Orlando-based tomato committee voted in November 2003 against renewing Procacci’s certificate of privilege.

Procacci — the only Florida grower of the specialty variety — petitioned Nov. 11 for a certificate of privilege.

“We lost almost $3 million and had to dump up to 40,000 pounds of tomatoes a day because the committee voted against allowing consumers the right to a perfectly good and tasty tomato,” said Joseph Procacci, chief executive officer.

If Procacci’s packout had made a little tighter grade, it would have made the required No. 2 grade, said committee manager Reggie Brown.

“They have taken a business position to cease to produce the product and make the accusation that the committee will not allow them to ship the product, which is incorrect,” he said.

“They have chosen not to pack the product to the common minimum standard of the industry.”