Will new rules at NJ ports raise the price of fruits and vegetables?
New Jersey’s top business organization is expressing concern about what they say are overly burdensome new rules at marine terminals and industrial storage facilities near ports that will drive up costs and drive away port business in the Garden State.
Ray Cantor, the vice president of government affairs at the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said the updated Department of Environmental Protection rules change how the DEP regulates fumigation operations at ports and storage facilities, making them more expensive for importers bringing fruits, vegetables, logs and other products into New Jersey from foreign countries.
New pesticide rules
He said when pesticides are applied they will now have to be contained, so they don’t wind up wafting up into the air and spreading into other areas of the port or surrounding communities.
“No other port in the nation to our knowledge requires these types of devices be put in place, or these requirements, and as a result of that our ports become uncompetitive economically,” he said.
Cantor pointed out previously when a shipment of fruits or vegetables arrived, it would be off-loaded at a warehouse, fumigated, washed and then sent into the chain of commerce, but now the product will have to be enclosed in such a way as to control fumes from pesticides so they don’t get released into the air.
An expensive rule change?
“Pesticides have never been treated this way before. No other state does that. These pesticides are legal under EPA and even under DEP pesticide rules to be done the way that they are,” he said.
Cantor said because this type of fumigation process is more costly, “we’re concerned these shipments may now go to New York, may now go to Delaware, may now go to Pennsylvania as opposed to continuing to come to New Jersey.”
He noted that could wind up costing consumers more, and result in fewer local port and industrial warehouse jobs in Jersey.
“This is a cost driver, and it makes our port for these products less competitive,” he said.
DEP says no rules are being changed
A Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said the recently adopted rules only clarify when a permit is required and they do not expand the scope of existing fumigation operations.
Larry Hajna said that other jurisdictions in the region, including Maryland and Philadelphia, also regulate fumigation operations, which are necessary to protect public health, safety and welfare.
"Where appropriate, the DEP provided flexibility, such as additional compliance time, and modified the adopted rules to ensure that they are not broader than the intended scope of the rules," Hajna said.
“The rules also include an emergency exemption, which was not included in the prior rules for fumigation operations. The DEP is also considering developing a general permit to streamline the permitting process and is planning to engage stakeholders over the coming months.”
David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at email@example.com
Click here to contact an editor about feedback or a correction for this story.