By Vanessa Richins
Ag-Mart Produce Inc, the grower behind the Santa Sweets brand tomatoes, has been slapped with a fine of $931,000 after allegations of pesticide misuse.
The report, released Thursday, states officials at Ag-Mart’s New Jersey headquarters in Cedarville committed “hundreds of violations that include denying state environmental inspectors access to facilities, losing track of a highly toxic insecticide, failing to properly ventilate areas during pesticide use, failing to post important pesticide safety information for workers, careless record keeping and using forbidden mixtures of pesticides.”
The charges come after several inspections between 2005 and 2007 by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
For example, the company was unable to locate a container with an insecticide named Monitor. In another instance, the inspector was allegedly not allowed to inspect the facilities at the scheduled time, and was eventually allowed access to only a small portion of the farm. They were also accused of harvesting tomatoes before the prescribed 90-day waiting period after pesticide use had elapsed.
John O’Riordan, council for Ag-Mart, says that the company will be protesting the charges. “It’s important to point out that $780,000 of that total fine comes from hyper-technical violations, where someone forgot to put a.m. and p.m. after the times they put down insecticides,” said O’Riordan. “No workers have been injured, and our workers are represented by the Teamsters Union, and they had not received any complaints.
Hopefully these charges will remind all farmers of the importance of pesticide safety. Perhaps it will even inspire them to check out the possibility of organic gardening.