Ugly vs. Bush: Ugly Wins!


Tasty, wrinkly tomatoes win a battle against bureaucracy in Florida:

The Florida Tomato Committee, which controls most of the $500 million industry in the state, [previously] refused to allow Procacci Brothers to ship UglyRipe tomatoes out of the state. The committee was established by a federal agreement in 1937, and is one of many such groups that regulate agricultural products in several states.

The rules govern the looks of tomatoes. "Flavor is not a factor because, in the committee's view, it is too subjective," reports the Times.

Hilariously, opponents claimed these little wizened-looking tomatoes would have an unfair advantage:

Florida governor Jeb Bush, opposed the change on the grounds that it would give an unfair advantage to the grower of UglyRipes. "Every grower has some percentage of its crops that is flat, elongated, ridged, etc., yet they are still required to adhere to the minimum grade requirements," the governor's letter said….

The tomato committee, which guarantees the consistency of Florida tomatoes, said that the new ruling could create a precedent that might allow inferior tomatoes to get to market.

Apparently, only the Florida Tomato Committee is able to detect "inferior tomatoes." I wonder what all those people are doing in the grocery store when they pick one up, squeeze, sniff, and put it back in the bin and walk away?

UglyRipes, marketed as Santa Sweets, will start shipping tomorrow. 

Jacob Sullum tracked the Ugly wars for the magazine in 2005.

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  1. This sounds like a bit of a silly example, but I for one think that it’s a proper function of government to regulate the quality of the food supply. It doesn’t always mean they do a good job of it, admittedly.

  2. Your post is misleading… it almost reads like the UglyRipes CANNOT be sent out of state when the point is that the Dept Of Agro said that the Uglies CAN be sent:

    “In a ruling being issued today by the federal Agriculture Department, a creased and ridged but tasty tomato, the UglyRipe, can be sold outside Florida until late spring.

    “”Thanks to the U.S.D.A., consumers can now have the midsummer goodness of the tomato season all year round,” said Joseph G. Procacci, the chairman of Procacci Brothers of Philadelphia, whose subsidiaries grow the tomato in Florida. “The UglyRipe gets fan mail. There’s no other way to put it.””

    You do say so in the final line but after making the opposite seem true

  3. The committee was established by a federal agreement in 1937,…

    Thank goodness for outdated New Deal policies that not only create do-nothing bureaucrats (Tomato Committee?!?!), but also protect us from competition.

  4. I buy Ugly Ripe tomatoes quite often. They’re pricey, but they taste much better than most store-bought tomatoes.

    Needless to say, I oppose such protectionist nonsense, even if I’m not necessarily affected by it.

  5. I grow and heirloom call Purple Cherokee. It’s ugly, it cracks, they are fragile, but the taste and texture are unreal. Nothing like fresh T in a BLT on a hot summer day. Highly recommended.

  6. “the Florida Tomato Committee is able to detect ‘inferior tomatoes’ ”

    Then why didn’t they warn me about Natalie, my grade seven girlfriend?

  7. Incidentaly folks, this is a classic example of how fascism in action.

    The new deal policies regarding agriculture where based largely on the Mussolini model: the producers were forced to join cartels that then regulated production quantity and quality.

    Of course, these organizations were mostly placed in the hands of experienced leaders selected from major firms in the industry.

    The result, the established players use the government enforced cartel to reduce competition and keep prices high. As a cover, they claim to be protecting the people against poor quality and the like.

    Agriculture was one of the most pervasively centralized sectors of the economy in the ’20’s and ’30’s.

  8. Somehow of all the examples offered on of government ineptitude and outright malfeasance, this one has particularly raised my hackles. If I weren’t against the initiation of force I’d slap the Tomato Committee silly.

  9. In years past, ugly, ripe, & flavorful tomatoes grown in So Ca all went to make Hunt’s catsup because people would only buy smooth symmetrical tomatoes without defects or bruises.

    After the tomatoes going to the markets were picked the crews came through the fields and picked everything that was left, all of which was now fully ripe.

    Far as I know, there wasn’t any governing board decreeing those rules.

  10. I’m not sure why Florida was opposed to Florida growers getting an exception to a Federal standard. It’s not like the UglyRipe people turned around and asked for a rebate of an involuntary marketing charge or the like(was it a California upscale dairy operation that wanted out of the “Real Milk” involuntary marketing?). It’s a lot more obvious why Maine would insist that a langostino is a crab, not a lobster, for instance; or Mississippi that a basa is not a catfish. Why assert that a produced-in-state high margin crop is not a tomato, though?

    Jimmy Eduardo: the government isn’t regulating quality here; it’s regulating uniformity. It’s a distinction between getting certified by as Six Sigma or ISO 9000, and getting the product ranked at a certain threshold by Wine Spectator.

  11. buying tomatoes at a store is for chumps anyway. an actually ripe tomato would get destroyed if you piled it into a truck, so all you can get are unripe tomatoes made artifically red. it would be nice if someone marketed an actually ripe tomato in stores shipped in special packaging to protect it or something but maybe thats against tomato cartel rules too.

  12. Situation screams for lobbying reform.

  13. I wonder what all those people are doing in the grocery store when they pick one up, squeeze, sniff, and put it back in the bin and walk away?

    They’re putting the good name of the Florida Tomato Commitee in doubt, is what they’re doing. Determination of tomato quality is solely the duty of the Florida Tomato Commitee, and we don’t want any up-start ‘consumer’ scab thinking they can do our jobs. Ain’t that right, Vroomfondel?

  14. Better than what ol’ korn syrup boy does, there (“pick up, squeeze, snif, and put back”).

    He gets all Billy Squire on the ‘maters ‘n’ shit.

    (you know, that sounds like the Male Chauvinist Pig’s ideal date, come to think of it…)

  15. it would be nice if someone marketed an actually ripe tomato in stores

    Believe it or not these puppies can come close. Even still, I have bought better and cheaper tomatoes in the northeast in the dead of winter than what I have to choose from at a Publix in Florida in July.

  16. it would be nice if someone marketed an actually ripe tomato in stores shipped in special packaging to protect it…….

    Ron, funny you should bring that up. We’re seeing a lot of that specialty packaging these days. Hard plastic top and bottom with each tomato nestled in a nice round protected cocoon. Usually see it with the vine ripened stuff.

    Interesting that you can pick them green and leave the stems attached to ensure that they continue to ripen on the vine. Course, they still ain’t Pig Wiggle’s tomatoes but……….

  17. Pigwiggle — In what part of the country are you growing these Purple Cherokees of which you speak?

  18. jp-

    The Salt Lake valley (Utah), which my Western Garden book tells me is just about the best place in the whole US for a vegetable garden. Endless sun, long hot summers. I grew Cantaloup last season.

  19. “the Florida Tomato Committee is able to detect ‘inferior tomatoes’ ”

    Then why didn’t they warn me about Natalie, my grade seven girlfriend?

    Aresen, Thanks for the laugh.

  20. I wonder how many politicians campaigned promising to end waste in government since 1937. Yet, the Florida Tomato Commitee still exists.

  21. you should be warned: the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is named Charles Bronson. Don’t criticize unless you have a Death Wish.

  22. Pigwiggle — Thanks. I’ll have to see if those babies will do all right in PA.

  23. It’s not that government is big. It’s that government is morbidy obese.

  24. hey biology people – this past summer i raised pumpkins (so-ill – pumpkin capital of the world!) next to some watermelons and cucumbers. i ended up with some thing that was shaped like a pumpkin, was green like a watermelon, smelled like a cucumber and tasted sorta like a canaloupe! what kind of frankenfruit did i grow?

  25. this page gives some hints, but doesn’t answer your question outright, downstater. I googled “hybrid pumpkin watermelon cucumber” – lots of useful sites

    the first page linked yielded these tidbits:

    …cucurbits (such as cucumber, gourd, muskmelon, pumpkin, squash and watermelon…

    so, all these vegetables (technically, botanically, they’re fruits) are in the same plant family, and are of species that are closely enough related to interbreed and form hybrids

    Q. Will pumpkins, squash and gourds cross-pollinate and produce freak fruit if I interplant several kinds in my garden?

    A. Pumpkins, squash and gourds are members of the vine crops called “cucurbits.” The name is derived from their botanical genus classification of Cucurbita (often abbreviated C.). There are four main species of Cucurbita usually included in the pumpkin, squash and gourd grouping. The varieties within a botanical species (which may be referred to as pumpkins, squash or gourd) can cross-pollinate. Varieties from different species do not. For example, zucchini crosses with Howden’s Field pumpkin, acorn or spaghetti squash, small decorative gourds, or Jack-Be-Little miniature pumpkins because they are all members of the same botanical species (C. Pepo).

    However, cross-pollination does not affect the taste, shape or color of the current season’s fruit. Crosses show up only if seeds from these fruits are saved and grown the following year. Butternut squash, Small Sugar pumpkin, White Cushaw pumpkin, and Big Max pumpkin could all be grown in the same area without crossing because each variety comes from a different species. Because bees carry pollen for distances of a mile or more, in suburban areas where many gardens are in close proximity, fruits must be bagged and pollinated by hand if pure seed of non-hybrid varieties is desired.

    that’s not as clear or as accurate as it could be, but probably close enough for your purposes.

  26. I would like to add, cross polination is really only a current season problem with vegetables wherein you eat the seeds; popcorn x sweetcorn, snap peas x sugar peas, and so forth.

  27. So, is there a windfall profits tax in the works for this product and everything else that is grown both in CA and FL? You know, the price is predicted to double or triple on everything from strawberries to oranges and, of course, tomatoes.

  28. thanks! for the record – whatever it was, it was pretty good!

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