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.