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Rain spells relief in San Luis Valley

Much-hoped-for rain fell in Colorado’s San Luis Valley this summer, giving the region’s potato producers a much-needed respite from ongoing drought conditions and declining aquifer levels.

“The San Luis Valley has had a decent year so far in terms of surface water flows. For the first time in the last several years, stream flow amounts were near normal through most of the irrigation season,” said Craig Cotton, Div. 3 district engineer with the Colorado State Engineer’s office in Alamosa, CO. “This was due mainly to the wet fall that we experienced last year and the summer monsoons that have occurred recently.”

Earlier this year, Cotton reported that conditions in the Rio Grande River Basin were dire. “We have a low of 66 percent of average to a high of 97 percent of average,” he told The Produce News in early January. “We’re the lowest basin the state.”

Increased precipitation has had a meaningful impact. “Because of this surface water availability, the wells have had to pump less than normal amounts for portions of the season,” Cotton said. “In addition, we have seen an increase in the aquifer levels in the valley. This will aid in the recovery of the aquifers back to a long-term sustainable condition.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Rain spells relief in San Luis Valley

Much-hoped-for rain fell in Colorado’s San Luis Valley this summer, giving the region’s potato producers a much-needed respite from ongoing drought conditions and declining aquifer levels.

“The San Luis Valley has had a decent year so far in terms of surface water flows. For the first time in the last several years, stream flow amounts were near normal through most of the irrigation season,” said Craig Cotton, Div. 3 district engineer with the Colorado State Engineer’s office in Alamosa, CO. “This was due mainly to the wet fall that we experienced last year and the summer monsoons that have occurred recently.”

Earlier this year, Cotton reported that conditions in the Rio Grande River Basin were dire. “We have a low of 66 percent of average to a high of 97 percent of average,” he told The Produce News in early January. “We’re the lowest basin the state.”

Increased precipitation has had a meaningful impact. “Because of this surface water availability, the wells have had to pump less than normal amounts for portions of the season,” Cotton said. “In addition, we have seen an increase in the aquifer levels in the valley. This will aid in the recovery of the aquifers back to a long-term sustainable condition.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Lime market remains hot, but relief on horizon

If they were available, large limes (175 size and greater) could return a shipper $ 110 or more for a 40-pound box.

“That’s what you could get if you had any,” said Ronald Cohen, vice president of sales at Vision Import Group LLC. in River Edge, NJ. “The trouble is, there aren’t any.”

The lime market has been red hot for more than a month because of bad weather in Mexico’s lime-producing regions in December. Very cold temperatures and wet weather reduced the bloom and even damaged some trees.

That lack of December bloom created the short supplies in March. Chasing the hot market, growers have been stripping trees, which has prolonged the shortage, according to Cohen.

That explanation makes sense because if limes are allowed to stay on the tree and size, it takes fewer to fill a carton. But instead there are fewer and fewer limes available to get the added size because of the stripping.

Cohen said the result has been quite a price differential between large and small limes, though all the sizes are trading at well-above normal pricing.

On April 16, he said 175s and larger were $ 110; 200s were $ 100; 230s were returning mostly $ 80 per carton; and 250s were $ 60-65. Cohen told buyers to beware of bargain limes, as there is some improper sizing going on to capture the hot market. He said if a carton of 200s is priced too low, it’s probably filled with 230s.

Rosbel Ruiz, operations manager for Limex Sicar Ltd. in Mission, TX, concurred that the lime market is the strongest he has ever seen and it will remain strong for several more months. He said the hot market has led to increased supplies from non-traditional sources.

“We are sourcing some limes from Guatemala bringing them into Mexico and then into the United States,” he said. “And there are some limes in Texas from Florida, which came from Colombia.”

Ruiz said the firm’s Mexican sources are telling them that there is more tree damage than initially indicated, so that it might take several months for the supply-demand curve to get in sync.

Cohen is a bit more optimistic that the hot market will subside a bit in the near term, though he still sees a pretty strong market through May.

He reasoned that several factors are influencing both the demand and supply sides of the equation, which will bring them closer together. The high prices are causing some to use lemons instead of limes or to just forego the lime slice altogether.

And he said suppliers from Honduras, Colombia and Guatemala are trying to capitalize on the hot market. Increased shipments from those non-traditional supplies should also put a downward pressure on the price.

In addition, speaking just prior to the Easter break, he said that holiday will close the packingsheds in Mexico for about five days until April 22. That should allow some limes to size a bit on the tree and change the size profile for the following week.

“I think the market will start coming down in $ 5 increments and by June it should be in the $ 30s,” he said.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

California ag groups respond to introduction of drought relief bill in U.S. Senate

Six days after the Feb. 5 passage of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act by the U.S. House of Representatives, California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein introduced in the Senate a bill called the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014, with a very different vision for addressing California’s severe water shortage.

Unlike the House bill, which proposes modifications to federal legislation restricting the availability of water to farms and cities of Central California and Southern California, the Senate bill would provide $ 300 million in emergency drought-relief funding and mandate that state and federal agencies act expeditiously to minimize reductions of water deliveries by being as flexible as current laws allow.

Several California agricultural groups have endorsed the proposed Senate legislation which, as of Feb. 12, was in committee.

Tom Nassif, president and chief executive officer of Western Growers Association, said in a written statement Feb. 11, “The state of California is facing potentially devastating drought conditions, and Western Growers’ members and other producers across the state welcome the introduction” of the Senate bill.

The act will provide “congressional direction to federal agencies responsible for implementing federal regulations affecting operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project,” Nassif said. “The legislation mandates that for the duration of the current drought emergencies, these agencies act with a sense of urgency and be as flexible as the law allows in order to minimize water supply reductions resulting from the application of those regulations. If enacted, these changes would provide assistance to water users and our farmers who face critical shortages.”

Nassif expressed hope that the bill “will be promptly taken up and passed in the Senate so it can move quickly to a conference with the House bill passed last week. I believe if reasonable accommodation can be made between the two and merged into a single bill in a bipartisan effort, benefits can be realized by all California water users.”

The Westlands Water District, which provides water to much of the drought-stricken farmland in the San Joaquin Valley, issued a statement Feb. 11 urging passage of the Senate legislation.

“Notwithstanding the rainfall and snow California has enjoyed over the last week, the state is facing unprecedented drought conditions,” the statement said. “Water supply reductions resulting from these extraordinary dry conditions have been exacerbated by the implementation in prior years of regulations imposed under federal law [on the CVP and SWP]. The legislation introduced today would provide much-needed relief for the public water agencies that receive water from these projects and for the people, farms and businesses they serve.”

The California Farm Bureau Federation also urged the senate to pass the bill, stating that the legislation “will increase the availability of water for farmers and other water users, as well as provide immediate drought relief for livestock ranchers.”

Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League in Fresno, CA, told The Produce News Feb. 12 that his organization has not taken an official position on the proposed Senate bill.

However, he said, “I think it absolutely is a positive step.” The organizations that have expressed support “hope something gets passed by the Senate that can be conferenced with [the House bill] so that something gets done. These bodies are so different, you just hope they can produce something that they can get to negations in conference.”

All parties recognize that “we have a very, very serious problem,” Bedwell said. “We eventually have to realize … that what we are seeing now is in large part due to the inaction that we have experienced over the last four decades,” during which time the state’s population has doubled while no additional water storage has been built and water available to agriculture has been reduced by environmental regulations.

“The idea for $ 300 million for emergency drought relief, good,” he said. “The idea to create flexibility to be able to pump as much water south as possible” under current law.

But “at some point we have to address [some] hard questions, and that will include the Endangered Species Act. It will include building more dams.”

How much the Senate bill would actually increase water deliveries to drought-stricken farms and cities in California is “a tough one to really evaluate,” Bedwell said. “I think in the short term we have to focus on getting something passed as soon as possible in the Senate” to see what can be done “in terms of a compromise” with the House bill.”

There remains “a basic divide in terms of philosophy” between the two, he said.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Stop & Shop and customers raise more than $2 million for hunger relief

As part of the Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. LLC goal to share meals and give thanks this past holiday season, the grocery chain donated more than $ 2 million dollars to hunger relief organizations across the Northeast due to loyal participation from its customers.

According to the Greater Boston Food Bank, for every dollar donated it can provide three meals to those in need, so the combined efforts from Stop & Shop New England and Stop & Shop New York Metro divisions will help provide more than 6 million meals.

“As we head into our 100th year and as we celebrate the successes that we have achieved over the years, we also reflect on how we can continue to grow and help support communities for the future,” Joe Kelley, president of Stop & Shop New England Division, said in a press release. “We are so grateful for our customers and for their continued support in making our hunger relief programs so successful.”

“Stop & Shop is committed to being a good neighbor, helping our communities, whether it be through monetary or food donations, is always a top priority for us as a company,” Don Sussman, president of Stop & Shop New York Metro Division, added in the release.

Food for Friends
Stop & Shop raised more than 1.5 million dollars through its Food for Friends program this past holiday season. Customers could contribute through in-store donations of $ 1, $ 3 or $ 5 at checkout registers. Of the $ 1.5 million raised, 60 percent was donated to the local hunger relief agency or food pantry each store adopted and the remaining 40 percent was donated directly to regional food banks.

Trimmings Boxes
As part of the Food for Friends program, Stop & Shop and its customers helped donate more than $ 550,000 worth of holiday trimmings to hunger relief organizations. The trimmings boxes, which cost customers $ 10 each, contained non-perishable Stop & Shop Own Brand items such as cranberry sauce, stuffing mix, cut green beans and more.

Turkey Express
In addition, Stop & Shop’s annual Turkey Express program donated more than 21,000 turkeys and 300 hams to 14 hunger relief organizations across the Northeast.

Additional Support
As the official supermarket of the New York Giants, Stop & Shop New York Metro division donated $ 150 for every first down the NY Giants made during the regular 2013-14 season. With 280 first downs this season, the Giants helped Stop & Shop carry $ 42,000 to eight regional partners in the tri-state area.

As the official supermarket of the New England Patriots, Stop & Shop New England also announced that they will donate $ 500 for every sack the Patriots made during the 2013-14 season. In total, Stop & Shop will be donating $ 10,000 to their food bank partners.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Stop & Shop and customers raise more than $2 million for hunger relief

As part of the Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. LLC goal to share meals and give thanks this past holiday season, the grocery chain donated more than $ 2 million dollars to hunger relief organizations across the Northeast due to loyal participation from its customers.

According to the Greater Boston Food Bank, for every dollar donated it can provide three meals to those in need, so the combined efforts from Stop & Shop New England and Stop & Shop New York Metro divisions will help provide more than 6 million meals.

“As we head into our 100th year and as we celebrate the successes that we have achieved over the years, we also reflect on how we can continue to grow and help support communities for the future,” Joe Kelley, president of Stop & Shop New England Division, said in a press release. “We are so grateful for our customers and for their continued support in making our hunger relief programs so successful.”

“Stop & Shop is committed to being a good neighbor, helping our communities, whether it be through monetary or food donations, is always a top priority for us as a company,” Don Sussman, president of Stop & Shop New York Metro Division, added in the release.

Food for Friends
Stop & Shop raised more than 1.5 million dollars through its Food for Friends program this past holiday season. Customers could contribute through in-store donations of $ 1, $ 3 or $ 5 at checkout registers. Of the $ 1.5 million raised, 60 percent was donated to the local hunger relief agency or food pantry each store adopted and the remaining 40 percent was donated directly to regional food banks.

Trimmings Boxes
As part of the Food for Friends program, Stop & Shop and its customers helped donate more than $ 550,000 worth of holiday trimmings to hunger relief organizations. The trimmings boxes, which cost customers $ 10 each, contained non-perishable Stop & Shop Own Brand items such as cranberry sauce, stuffing mix, cut green beans and more.

Turkey Express
In addition, Stop & Shop’s annual Turkey Express program donated more than 21,000 turkeys and 300 hams to 14 hunger relief organizations across the Northeast.

Additional Support
As the official supermarket of the New York Giants, Stop & Shop New York Metro division donated $ 150 for every first down the NY Giants made during the regular 2013-14 season. With 280 first downs this season, the Giants helped Stop & Shop carry $ 42,000 to eight regional partners in the tri-state area.

As the official supermarket of the New England Patriots, Stop & Shop New England also announced that they will donate $ 500 for every sack the Patriots made during the 2013-14 season. In total, Stop & Shop will be donating $ 10,000 to their food bank partners.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

California drought continues with no relief in sight

As the Northeast got hit with a paralyzing snow storm just a day after the calendar turned to 2014, the first California snow survey of the year revealed what everyone already knew: the state is suffering one of its worst droughts in history — and there is no rain in the forecast.

While researchers were in the field physically putting instruments in the snow on Jan. 3 to gauge depth and water content, electronic data had already revealed the water content statewide to be 20 percent of normal.

California’s water year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, and the first three months of this water year has produced the third-driest start in history.

The calendar year is even worse, as much of the rain and snow for 2012-13 fell in late 2012. The 2013 calendar year has been the driest in history for much of the state, including San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Ted Thomas, information officer for the California Department of Water Resources, told The Produce News Jan. 3 that San Francisco received only 5.6 inches of rain in 2013 compared to the 150-year annual average of 23.65 inches. Los Angeles had 3.44 inches of rain last year compared to an annual average over the past 100 years of almost 15 inches of rain.

Thomas said the first three months of the water year typically deliver about one-half of the annual rainfall. For San Francisco this year, those months have yielded only about 10 percent of the average annual rainfall.

This all adds up to a very dry year and very limited water deliveries from the state and federal water projects.

DWR has currently estimated that it will deliver 5 percent of the requested supplies through the State Water Project. Last year, customers received 35 percent of requested supply, on average. As a point of reference, the state rarely delivers 100 percent of requested supplies, but is typically above the 50 percent mark.

Despite the gloomy forecast, fruit and vegetable growers are not yet singing the blues.

Steve Smith of the Turlock Fruit Co. is a large melon growers and shipper in Turlock, CA, which sits in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. He does not expect the summer’s melon acreage to be affected negatively because of the drought. He said some areas have senior water rights and that is where is the high-value crops, such as melons, will be planted.

“There will probably be less cotton and the wheat won’t get any water, but I don’t anticipate a decrease in melon acreage,” he said.

He explained that wheat and other field crops are used as rotation crops, and this year they will be grown with little or no water. Growers, instead, will use their water allocations to irrigate their permanent tree crops and their high-value vegetable crops, and to the extent that they can they will move the annual crops to land that has access to sufficient water.

Ron Ratto, president of Ratto Bros. in Modesto, CA, said it all depends upon where a farm is and what water sources a grower has.

“We have wells on all of our ranches and right now we do have water,” said Ratto. “Tomorrow could be a different story, but we are OK right now.”

Ratto indicated that the underground aquifers could fail to produce if no rain comes to replenish them, but his company is moving forward anticipating a relatively normal year despite the lack of water.

There are pockets of California farmland that do rely 100 percent on federal or state water, so there will no doubt be cutbacks if the drought continues. But the amount and severity of them won’t be known for many months.

Farmers tend to be optimistic and it is interesting to note that the second driest first three months of the year — which occurred in 1960 — saw record rains in the spring, bringing the yearly total well above average.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

California drought continues with no relief in sight

As the Northeast got hit with a paralyzing snow storm just a day after the calendar turned to 2014, the first California snow survey of the year revealed what everyone already knew: the state is suffering one of its worst droughts in history — and there is no rain in the forecast.

While researchers were in the field physically putting instruments in the snow on Jan. 3 to gauge depth and water content, electronic data had already revealed the water content statewide to be 20 percent of normal.

California’s water year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, and the first three months of this water year has produced the third-driest start in history.

The calendar year is even worse, as much of the rain and snow for 2012-13 fell in late 2012. The 2013 calendar year has been the driest in history for much of the state, including San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Ted Thomas, information officer for the California Department of Water Resources, told The Produce News Jan. 3 that San Francisco received only 5.6 inches of rain in 2013 compared to the 150-year annual average of 23.65 inches. Los Angeles had 3.44 inches of rain last year compared to an annual average over the past 100 years of almost 15 inches of rain.

Thomas said the first three months of the water year typically deliver about one-half of the annual rainfall. For San Francisco this year, those months have yielded only about 10 percent of the average annual rainfall.

This all adds up to a very dry year and very limited water deliveries from the state and federal water projects.

DWR has currently estimated that it will deliver 5 percent of the requested supplies through the State Water Project. Last year, customers received 35 percent of requested supply, on average. As a point of reference, the state rarely delivers 100 percent of requested supplies, but is typically above the 50 percent mark.

Despite the gloomy forecast, fruit and vegetable growers are not yet singing the blues.

Steve Smith of the Turlock Fruit Co. is a large melon growers and shipper in Turlock, CA, which sits in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. He does not expect the summer’s melon acreage to be affected negatively because of the drought. He said some areas have senior water rights and that is where is the high-value crops, such as melons, will be planted.

“There will probably be less cotton and the wheat won’t get any water, but I don’t anticipate a decrease in melon acreage,” he said.

He explained that wheat and other field crops are used as rotation crops, and this year they will be grown with little or no water. Growers, instead, will use their water allocations to irrigate their permanent tree crops and their high-value vegetable crops, and to the extent that they can they will move the annual crops to land that has access to sufficient water.

Ron Ratto, president of Ratto Bros. in Modesto, CA, said it all depends upon where a farm is and what water sources a grower has.

“We have wells on all of our ranches and right now we do have water,” said Ratto. “Tomorrow could be a different story, but we are OK right now.”

Ratto indicated that the underground aquifers could fail to produce if no rain comes to replenish them, but his company is moving forward anticipating a relatively normal year despite the lack of water.

There are pockets of California farmland that do rely 100 percent on federal or state water, so there will no doubt be cutbacks if the drought continues. But the amount and severity of them won’t be known for many months.

Farmers tend to be optimistic and it is interesting to note that the second driest first three months of the year — which occurred in 1960 — saw record rains in the spring, bringing the yearly total well above average.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

California drought continues with no relief in sight

As the Northeast got hit with a paralyzing snow storm just a day after the calendar turned to 2014, the first California snow survey of the year revealed what everyone already knew: the state is suffering one of its worst droughts in history — and there is no rain in the forecast.

While researchers were in the field physically putting instruments in the snow on Jan. 3 to gauge depth and water content, electronic data had already revealed the water content statewide to be 20 percent of normal.

California’s water year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, and the first three months of this water year has produced the third-driest start in history.

The calendar year is even worse, as much of the rain and snow for 2012-13 fell in late 2012. The 2013 calendar year has been the driest in history for much of the state, including San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Ted Thomas, information officer for the California Department of Water Resources, told The Produce News Jan. 3 that San Francisco received only 5.6 inches of rain in 2013 compared to the 150-year annual average of 23.65 inches. Los Angeles had 3.44 inches of rain last year compared to an annual average over the past 100 years of almost 15 inches of rain.

Thomas said the first three months of the water year typically deliver about one-half of the annual rainfall. For San Francisco this year, those months have yielded only about 10 percent of the average annual rainfall.

This all adds up to a very dry year and very limited water deliveries from the state and federal water projects.

DWR has currently estimated that it will deliver 5 percent of the requested supplies through the State Water Project. Last year, customers received 35 percent of requested supply, on average. As a point of reference, the state rarely delivers 100 percent of requested supplies, but is typically above the 50 percent mark.

Despite the gloomy forecast, fruit and vegetable growers are not yet singing the blues.

Steve Smith of the Turlock Fruit Co. is a large melon growers and shipper in Turlock, CA, which sits in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. He does not expect the summer’s melon acreage to be affected negatively because of the drought. He said some areas have senior water rights and that is where is the high-value crops, such as melons, will be planted.

“There will probably be less cotton and the wheat won’t get any water, but I don’t anticipate a decrease in melon acreage,” he said.

He explained that wheat and other field crops are used as rotation crops, and this year they will be grown with little or no water. Growers, instead, will use their water allocations to irrigate their permanent tree crops and their high-value vegetable crops, and to the extent that they can they will move the annual crops to land that has access to sufficient water.

Ron Ratto, president of Ratto Bros. in Modesto, CA, said it all depends upon where a farm is and what water sources a grower has.

“We have wells on all of our ranches and right now we do have water,” said Ratto. “Tomorrow could be a different story, but we are OK right now.”

Ratto indicated that the underground aquifers could fail to produce if no rain comes to replenish them, but his company is moving forward anticipating a relatively normal year despite the lack of water.

There are pockets of California farmland that do rely 100 percent on federal or state water, so there will no doubt be cutbacks if the drought continues. But the amount and severity of them won’t be known for many months.

Farmers tend to be optimistic and it is interesting to note that the second driest first three months of the year — which occurred in 1960 — saw record rains in the spring, bringing the yearly total well above average.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Sprouts Offers Colo. Flood Relief

BOULDER, Colo. — A Sprouts Farmers Market store here damaged as a result of recent flooding is expected to reopen Wednesday, the company said.


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The Phoenix-based natural foods retailer said it was supporting area shoppers and businesses affected by the flooding by donating two-and-a-half semi-trailers of non-perishable groceries and paper products to the Food Bank of Larimer County, aiding people in flood-damaged Colorado towns of Fort Collins, Greeley and Louisville.

SN blog: Sprouts Wins by Flipping the Margin Model

The company also announced a “Grab n’ Give” program allowing shoppers to purchase and donate bags of groceries at a 10% discount between Sept. 25 and Oct. 6. All bags are pre-packaged and contain items that the local Community Food Share food bank needs the most, Sprouts said.

In addition Sprouts said it would offer all shoppers 10% off their total purchase Oct. 4-6, and would donate 10% of its proceeds during that period to the Foothills United Way.

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Kings golf classic to benefit hunger relief services

Kings Food Markets announced that its third annual charity golf classic, which benefits its “Act Against Hunger” initiative, will be held Aug. 15.

The tournament brings together Kings and its industry partners to raise support for programs that provide hunger relief services in communities throughout New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

“We are so proud to host our annual golf classic in support of our ‘Act Against Hunger’ initiative,” Judy Spires, president and chief executive officer of Kings Food Markets, based in Parsippany, NJ, said in a press release. “As a company dedicated to feeding families, we and our partners are serious about our role in ending hunger, and this golf classic helps us do just that.”

The golf classic will take place at the Crystal Springs Resort in Vernon Valley, NJ, and will include brunch, cocktail hour, buffet dinner and an award presentation highlighting leaders in the community and their dedicated efforts supporting hunger relief. Attendees will also enjoy complimentary green fees and use of a power cart.

Early bird sponsorships are available and include hole sponsorship, registration for a foursome and individual tickets. All proceeds from the annual charity golf classic will be donated to help increase hunger relief awareness and education throughout the year. Past organizations that have benefited from the annual event include Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, Center for Food Action, Table to Table and Neighbor to Neighbor.

“In the last two years, we’ve been able to help thousands of families all across New Jersey, New York and Connecticut because of the participation and generous support of our golf classic sponsors,” Dan McGivney, event chairperson for Kings, said in the press release. “It is because of our shared commitment to ending hunger in the communities we serve, that we are able to make the incredible impact that we do.”

For more information on sponsorships and entry details, contact McGivney at dmcgivney@kingssm.com or 973-463-6399.

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