Georgia Voices: Protecting Vidalia onions
by The Savannah Morning News
November 11, 2013 10:11 PM | 1116 views | 0 0 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
State agriculture officials have done a good job over the years of protecting Georgia’s prized Vidalia onions from less sweet imitators.

But this time, it appears they’ve gone too far.

Farmers in south Georgia who grow this prize crop have hired former state Attorney General Mike Bowers to fight new regulations on when the vegetables can be packed. They’re hot that Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black has imposed this new rule, which they say is too arbitrary and will be bad for business.

Black has decreed that no Vidalia onion may be packed or sold before 12:01 a.m. on the Monday of the last full week of April. Next year, that’s April 21.

He explained that he was concerned that some onions had been harvested too early in recent years, resulting in inferior onions going on the market.

That hurts consumer confidence. It also damages the Vidalia onion brand.

The ag commissioner is responsible for promoting and protecting agriculture, one of Georgia’s top industries. And Vidalia onions — in addition to being a signature crop for the state — means about $150 million annually to the economy.

But no one knows Vidalia onions as well as the south Georgia farmers who grow them in the designated, 20-county Vidalia onion zone. ...

Mother Nature doesn’t pay attention to rules or schedules or bureaucrats.

Sometimes it rains too much.

Or too little.

Or it’s too cold, or too warm.

It’s Black’s job to protect this crop. But for the farmers, these onions are their livelihoods.

They have the most skin in this game.

If some of them are harvesting their onions too soon, the marketplace will punish them.

But arbitrary rules can hurt everyone.

It’s better for the commissioner to educate farmers about the dangers of jumping the gun, as opposed to firing off a rule no one seems to like.
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