Even though a judge in Atlanta ruled that he overstepped his authority regarding the $150 million Vidalia onion industry, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black said he plans to fine any farmer who ships onions before the last full week in April up to $5,000 per bag or box. He has filed an appeal of the decision. Black claims early sales of unripe onions threaten the crop's reputation.
Black said he and Vidalia onion growers worked to develop a rule saying no onions could be packaged for sale before the last full week in April.
Glennville Vidalia onion grower Delbert Bland won a law suit against Black and said he is more qualified to determine when his crop is ripe...not Commissioner Black or other farmers. He is asking the judge to stop Black from enforcing the packaging date.
Bland said Georgia law allows growers to ship onions earlier if they get a U.S. 1 grade from federal inspectors. He said he met with federal inspectors Monday.
Bland and Black will face off in court again today in Tattnall County where Bland grows about 3,000 acres of Vidalia onions and ships as many as 150,000 boxes of Vidalia onions during the first week of the season.