Jan 15, 2007 4:12 PM

 

Ag-Mart Action Alert- Nationwide

FARMWORKER ADVOCACY NETWORK URGES YOU TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST AG-MART

In North Carolina and Florida, tomato grower Ag-Mart is facing hundreds of charges for pesticide violations, mostly for failing to comply with the federal Worker Protection Standards that are designed to minimize pesticide hazards to farmworkers. At least one family contends that these unlawful exposures during a worker's pregnancy resulted in the severe birth defects of her son. The case has drawn outrage, as well as renewed attention to the plight of farmworkers, from around the nation. Here in North Carolina, it has also exposed many of the flaws in our system of pesticide regulation and enforcement.

North Carolina's case against the vegetable giant took a huge step backwards this week with the announcement that the administrative law judge in charge of the case has ruled in Ag-Mart's favor, recommending that the state dismiss 275 of the 369 charges against the company and limit the fine to only $500. Judge Beryl Wade accepted Ag-Mart's argument that their records were inaccurate, essentially negating the state's evidence for all the most serious violations in the case.

ACTION:

1) Please call, email and write to the Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler thanking him for pledging to continue to pursue the Ag-Mart case and asking him to encourage the Pesticide Board to reject the judge's ruling and press for the full fine against Ag-Mart.

Commissioner Steve Troxler

Steve.Troxler@ncmail.net

919-733-7125

1001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1001

2) Please write a letter to the editor of your local paper expressing your concern about the AgMart case and your support for improved protection of farmworker safety. You can submit your letter to the editor of your local paper in NC or to the Raleigh News & Observer. Your letter should be short, compelling, and personal - keep it 250 words or less.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Profile: Ag-Mart, Inc.

Based in Plant City, Florida

Owned by Procacci Brothers Sales Corp., a privately held Philadelphia produce conglomerate

President: Don Long

Ag-Mart is a large tomato grower with operations in Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey and Mexico, as well as packing facilities in NJ, PA and CA. One of the largest growers of grape tomatoes in the US, Ag-Mart sells its grape tomatoes under the label "Santa Sweets," but also repacks tomatoes for many private labels and provides grape tomatoes to McDonalds, among other restaurant chains. Ag-Mart's grape tomatoes are sold at almost every large grocery store chain in the US, and are also available as "certified organic." Ag-Mart also sells organic heirloom tomatoes under the "Ugly Ripe" label.

While the company has only operated in North Carolina a few years, it has already racked up a serious record of abuses with respect to farmworkers, including record fines from the NC Department of Labor in 2003 for housing workers in squalid conditions. The company now faces the largest pesticide violation case in North Carolina history.