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Raw Deal

July 23rd, 2008 by flanews

The recent tomato scare cost Florida tomato farmers more than a 100 million dollars in lost crops. Tomatoes were never linked to the 1,200 Salmonella cases nationwide. As Whitney Ray tells us, tomato farmers say they got a raw deal.

Hear it Here: Raw Deal

Dustin Ford has lunch on his mind.

Youve got to have a tomato on a cheeseburger, said Ford.

But not long ago Dustin was eating his burgers without tomatoes.

I got scared of buying tomatoes from anywhere, said Ford.

The Food and Drug Administration named tomatoes as a possible source of the salmonella outbreak. Days into the scare the FDA said Florida tomatoes were okay.

Despite being placed on the safe-to-eat list, people bought other produce instead, and millions of Florida tomatoes rotted on the vine. Floridas Department of Agriculture says in some cases farmers were losing money by harvesting crops.

Its cost effective, as unbelievable as it sounds, to let them rot on the vine, instead to spend six or eight dollars a box to pick them, pack them, ship them, if youre not going to have a buyer, said Department of Agriculture Spokesman Terry McElroy.

Tomato farmer and packaging plant operator Graves Williams says farmers at his plant lost more than 12 million dollars.

We couldnt give them away, said Williams.

Williams is calculating his losses. Hell give his findings to US lawmakers who will ask Congress to compensate Floridas farmers who says they got a raw deal.

Im used to hurricanes, Im used to pests. I never thought the federal Government would be the pest that put me out of business, Williams said.

Williams fears if something isnt done, some farmers will have to sell their land. US Congressman Allen Boyd will meet with the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and tomato farmers Monday.

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