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PHILADELPHIA -- New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher continued a longstanding tradition for those in his post when he toured the Philadelphia Regional Produce Market Aug. 13, accompanied by other Garden State agricultural dignitaries.

Among those in his party were Al Murray, assistant secretary of agriculture of New Jersey, and the top leaders of the New Jersey Farm Bureau, including President Richard Nieuwenhuis and Executive Director Peter Furey.

The visitors were escorted through the market by Lou Penza, an owner of Pinto Bros., which is on the market, and Chuck Zambito of Zambito Produce Sales in Woodbury, NJ. Also hosting the delegation was Dan Kane, assistant manager of the Philadelphia market. Sonny DiCrecchio, general manager of the market, was at the construction site of the new Philadelphia market.

Joe Procacci, chief executive officer of Procacci Bros./Garden State Farms, joined the group for a meeting at the end of the tour. In the meeting, Mr. Fisher said that New Jersey agriculture secretaries continue the annual tradition of visiting the Philadelphia market because "we always learn something and at the same time carry back messages to New Jersey growers on how they might build sales in Philadelphia. I'd like to extend my thanks for your work here on behalf of New Jersey farmers."

Mr. Fisher noted that the farm bureau involvement in the tour "is a good setting to be able to be unified in what we have to accomplish." The secretary tagged the new Philadelphia market as "an incredible adventure. It's exciting and scary."

Mr. Penza said that New Jersey growers have expanded in size and sophistication, and he is pleased with the New Jersey product that his firm sells.

Mr. Zambito noted that New Jersey growers have relationships with terminal market operators in Philadelphia and New York City "that go back for generations."

When asked about New Jersey commission sales to Philadelphia receivers, Mr. Procacci said that almost all sales now are f.o.b., based on supply and demand, so commission sales are greatly reduced.

Mr. Procacci agreed with Mr. Fisher's statement that New Jersey growers have been leaders in obtaining food-safety audits.

(Additional photos from the event appear in the Aug. 24, 2009, issue of The Produce News.)