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Florida tomato handlers have proposed ending formal certification of tomato carton weights to save money.

Even so, the same weight requirements for tomato cartons will continue in effect, according to a new proposal. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the proposed rule would eliminate the standard weight certification requirement established under the order.

“This action would reduce time and costs associated with tomato inspection at handling facilities,” the USDA said in the proposed rule.

Current regulations require Florida tomatoes to be inspected and certified by authorized representatives of the Federal or Federal-State Inspection Service. FSIS currently certifies weights as part of the inspection process.

The current inspection sampling rate for standard weight certification is 36 containers sampled based on a lot size of 1,600 containers. FSIS currently samples eight tomato containers from each lot for grade and size inspection, and these containers are also weighed. But to comply with standard weight certification procedures, the USDA said an additional 28 containers need to be weighed.
To lower the inspection time and cost, many tomato handlers provide an employee to sample and weigh the additional 28 containers.

The USDA said current Florida Tomato Committee members said the current sampling rate requires costly labor and is a time-consuming process that is difficult to maintain due to the handling volume in many operations. 

“Even with the standard weight certification, there are occasions when weight is an issue and the shipper often rectifies any discrepancies by making an adjustment to the shipment for the receiver,” the proposed rule said. 

“Committee members expressed that handling operations are spending thousands of dollars annually to meet the certification requirement without realizing a significant benefit from the program,” the USDA said.

The proposal is open for comments at until May 16.