Greenhouse growers enter U.S.-Mexico tomato dispute - The Packer

Greenhouse growers enter U.S.-Mexico tomato dispute

10/10/2012 12:52:00 PM
Tom Karst

Beckman“Let’s get this definition in place, let’s get it harmonized with what we have currently in place in Canada and starting moving it forward in the U.S.,” said Ed Beckman, president of the

Certified Greenhouse Farmers, Fresno. The trade association represents about 95% of the greenhouse tomatoes grown in California, according to the release.

California greenhouse tomato growers Casey Houweling, president of Houweling’s Nurseries and Steven Newell, president of Windset Farms, also testified in support of the amendment.

Speaking against the proposal were Eric Viramontes, director of the Mexican Association of Protected Horticulture and Martin Ley, vice president of Del Campo Supreme Inc., Nogales, Ariz., also representing the Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

Viramontes could not be reached for comment. Ley said he testified at the CDFA hearing on Oct. 9 that the state’s definition of greenhouse grown tomatoes put in place in 2004 was already very restrictive. Ley said both he and Viramontes argued that greenhouse technology is largely driven by climate patterns and latitude of growing areas. Ley said trying to dictate the universal application of technology doesn’t make sense.

“This is why the California definition is not a good one for the industry,” he said. “We really need a definition that is inclusive, not a definition that is exclusive,” he said. An exclusive definition will lead to conflict within the industry and with exporters in other countries, in addition to hindering the development of new technology. While the definition might help some U.S. greenhouse operators gain retail shelf space, he said the gains would not be sustainable.

“The idea of trying to take ownership of the word greenhouse is a bad idea,” Ley said. He said a better use of time would be to define “protected agriculture.”

The booming growth of the greenhouse category has resulted in some growers and shippers mislabeling field-grown produce as “greenhouse,” according to the California greenhouse group. “Greenhouse grown” and “protected agriculture” are often wrongly used interchangeably, according to the release.

The request for a hearing with the California Department of Food and Agriculture was submitted in April, and Beckmann said he believes the agency will consider the testimony they heard and probably issue a decision sometime in 2013.

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Nogales, Arizona  |  October, 10, 2012 at 06:03 PM

'Greenhouse' and 'protected agriculture' should be defined differently. There is no question that a shade-house is quite different than a greenhouse when it comes to growing environments and separation of climate. To incorporate hydroponics into the details of the definition of a greenhouse, however, is incorrect. Hydroponic-grown and greenhouse-grown are two different systems and should be recognized separately. Greenhouse-grown and hydroponic-grown should not be considered to be dependent on each other.

AZ  |  October, 11, 2012 at 08:56 AM

Let's look at this for what it really is. The group led by Mr. Beckman is promoting an anti- competitive measure because they are stuck with over-priced infrastructure. If they truly cared about greenhouse-grown meaning something they would be advocating for a voluntary quality standard that PROVES the term means something and DESERVES a premium in the marketplace. The consumer doesn't give a damn the medium in which the product was grown or if the structure has climate controls. The consumer votes with their wallet and wants a quality product. Mis-branding shouldn't even be a part of this discussion as the brand "greenhouse-grown" truly says nothing about the end product. Last I checked you can still grow complete crap in a greenhouse...

MX  |  October, 11, 2012 at 04:54 PM

We are going to confuse the costumer even more now. Hydroponics is only needed when your soil is lacking key nutritients, there is way too many scientific studies that prove that direct soil planting is better, BUT if your soil is poor or tired, you NEED to go hydroponic. How many SKU's do we want on the tomato category in the future ?? Like we don't have enough already ..... Carefull what you wish for ..

ohio  |  October, 12, 2012 at 08:30 AM

It's sad that people need the government to "fix" things. There should be some definition of what constitutes greenhouse grown; however, how the product tastes and costs is all that matters to the consumer. You can also grow crap outside, but you still shouldn't sell it as greenhouse grown. It's false representation to attempt to gain increased pricing without increased infrastructure costs. It's called fraud.

AZ  |  October, 12, 2012 at 09:10 AM

Frank, the tightening of these rules has nothing to do with crap grown outside being marketed as greenhouse-grown. This is a small group of California growers trying to make the definition of greenhouse even stricter than it already is within the state of California. While they have delusions of grandeur, this only applies to the state of California Ag Department's own definition. I would also like to add that Mr. Beckman jumped on the coattails of the Florida tomato group also trying to push anti-competitive measures because they simply don't know how to run their businesses efficiently... Rather than improve they'd rather make it someone else's problem

Dice or slice    
October, 15, 2012 at 05:44 PM

There is already much industry/consumer confusion regarding tomatoes from the protected Ag world of Mexico. Imports, most which are now grown under shade, plastic, or some form of protected ag format via Mexico, are marketed either as Greenhouse grown or vine ripe fruit based which sub commodity will bring a better return to the farm. Tomatoes picked from the same area may be marketed as two diffrent products, Case in point 15 lb beefsteak and 20 lb 2 layer vine ripes. Which is it, GH, protected, VR, or all of the above? Please don't get me wrong, there are plenty of good quality tomato growers/importers from Mexico, let's just clear up the confusion, and have a consistent message to the trade.

March, 09, 2013 at 04:19 PM

egg zack lee

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