Q: My heart is broken! I ordered tomato plants from Burpee but they say they can not ship to Georgia because our state regulations don’t allow it. Where can I buy heirloom tomatoes?
A: Burpee can ship tomato plants to Georgia but they choose not to, because their organic growing methods conflict with Georgia Department of Agriculture regulations. Georgia requires that imported vegetable transplants be treated with insecticide to combat whiteflies. The rule was implemented in 2007 to protect Georgia’s $189 million tomato/pepper/eggplant crop from viruses that whiteflies spread. But why are you going out-of-state to buy tomato transplants? There are many local sources of heirloom and improved tomato plants. I’ve collected a list at Georgia Heirloom Tomatoes
Here is the response from Burpee:
“Our growing operation does not use imidacloprid, thus Pennsylvania will not allow us to ship to Georgia because we can not meet the Georgia requirement.
“We grow our plants as organically as possible, and we have other means to control whitefly, mainly by subjecting the plants to cooler temperatures (outside), in which whitefly will not populate.
“Ideally, if Georgia could change their regulation to say that plants shipped in must be free of whitefly, then PA would allow us, because our plants are free from whitefly. We know this from inspections they make of our production. But for Georgia to specifically say imidacloprid must be used, that we can not meet, and PA will not allow us to ship.
“We are very disappointed not to be able to ship our vegetable plants to Georgia. With the importance of growing plants with less chemicals, Georgia will need to take this into account in their regulations.”
This response from the Georgia Department of Agriculture
“Recently, numerous home gardeners have been disappointed when they attempted to purchase tomato and other vegetable transplants from an online seed company and were told shipments were prohibited to Georgia. We would like to clarify any misunderstanding concerning Georgia’s vegetable transplant regulations.
Georgia’s vegetable industry is an important economic segment, valued at over $849 million in 2008 (University of Georgia. Solanaceous vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant) alone are grown on over 12,000 acres and valued at nearly $186 million
“In 2007, due to the discovery of new virus diseases on vegetables in Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas, the Georgia Department of Agriculture adopted regulations regarding the transport of vegetable transplants into the state. You can view these regulations on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. The specific regulation chapter is 40-4-7.
“These rules do not prohibit the movement of vegetable transplants into Georgia, even from states where these new virus diseases are known to occur. The rules do, however, require that vegetable transplants be grown under certain conditions and treated with an appropriate insecticide to control whiteflies and other sap feeding insects that transmit these diseases. It is a company’s decision whether or not to grow their transplants in the manner that meets our shipping requirements. No company or state is prohibited from shipping vegetable transplants into Georgia.
“The intent of these rules was to protect our farmers and vegetable industry yet not cause undue hardship on transplant producers in other states. We attempted to include standard practices for the commercial production of vegetable transplants in our rules in order to minimize shipping disruptions. Many people enjoy the taste of fresh backyard grown tomatoes and we at the Georgia Department of Agriculture encourage gardening. We also want to ensure that our backyard gardeners and commercial farmers face as few insect and disease problems as possible when growing their crops.
Specific Georgia regulation:
For the purposes of this Rule, “Vegetable Transplant” means any plant for planting, including but not limited to members of the Alliaceae family (leek, onion, etc.), Asteraceae family (lettuce), Brassicaceae family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.), Cucurbitaceae family (cantaloupe, squash, watermelon, etc.), Malvaceae family (okra) and Solanaceae family (eggplant, pepper, tobacco, tomato etc.) where the fruit or vegetative part will be consumed for food.
All States. All vegetable transplants moved into Georgia must be regularly inspected during the growing season and be certified free of the plant pests noted above by the PlantProtection Official of the state of origin. The last inspection must be made no more than three days prior to pulling or shipment.
All vegetable transplants must have been treated during the growing season with appropriate Federal and Stated registered pesticides approved by the Plant Protection Official of the state of origin to control insect, bacterial and fungal plant pests. In addition all vegetable transplants must be treated with a Neonicotinoid class insecticide or other insecticide approved by the Commissioner according to label directions for control of whiteflies and other sap feeding insects.
All vegetable transplants must be packed at the farm on which they were produced and labeled to show the name and address of the producer
All vegetable transplants must be accompanied by Required Certification.
Additional Restrictions for the states of Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, or any other state where cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus, cucurbit leaf crumple virus or squash leaf curl begomovirus are known to be established:
Vegetable transplants must be free from viral pests listed in Section 40-4-7-.02 above.