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Monday May 4th, 2015 10:04AM

Ag Commissioner defends onion curfew

By Marc Eggers Anchor / Reporter
ATLANTA - A Fulton County Superior Court judge and the Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture have differing views on how the DOA can influence the Vidalia onion market.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Wright ruled last week that state law gives Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black authority over packaging rules but does not allow him to decide when the onions can be shipped.

The issue erupted last August when Black ruled that the iconic sweet onions could not be shipped before the last week of April.

He was responding to fears Vidalia onions weren't as sweet as they should be.

Commissioner Black told Access North GA that concerns arose nearly 18 month ago. "The vast majority of Vidalia growers asked us to look into the problem of poor onions being on the market first," Black said.

"When you start looking at the laws of the State of Georgia, since the state owns Vidalia, the state owns the trademark, we are charged with defending the trademark, and we are given the authority by the General Assembly to set whatever regulations necessary...we thought the best solution to insure that we have the integrity of the onion moving forward was to have a packing date set for the industry," Black explained.

Referring to the ruling against the last-week-of-April-packing-date by Judge Wright, Black said, "The Attorney General has filed an appeal today."

Delbert Bland, one of the largest growers of Vidalia onions, brought the initial suit against Black over the rule change.

Black did comment that due to the late arrival of warm spring weather, the whole issue might be a moot point. "We don't believe there are going to be any onions in the State of Georgia available (for harvest) before the last week of April, anyway."
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