By Rene Hardwick
National Onion Association
By this time next year, the onion industry could be in turmoil.
By this time next year, you could be witness to the first downfall of the industry having watched inferior onions flood the market from overseas without any grading standards. For three months, those floodgates will be open and inferior onions will drive down onion prices.
It’s all because we let an opportunity to change this narrative slip right out of our hands.
The South Texas Market Order is essentially on the chopping block, all because of a standard referendum, held during tumultuous times when Texas farmers were dealing with COVID and weather, failed due to a lack of votes.
But we still have a chance to change it — before it’s too late.
You just need to tell the USDA and Sec. Tom Vilsack that the entire country needs this marketing order in Texas – in your own words.
This time LAST year, the USDA was doing its duty, holding its regularly scheduled six-year referendum required under the marketing order. But many farmers had bad weather, and they were dealing with the COVID pandemic and likely not even getting their mail.
The NOA hasn’t spoken to anyone in Texas who wants to do away with this order.
Keeping the order is supported across the country by farmers, associations and even legislators who understand the need to impose standards on imports that that do not have to meet standards U.S. onions do.
But there are opponents who would love to see this marketing order go away, such as the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas. This organization argues consumer demands “often exceed existing requirements in a Marketing Order or more specifically target preferences that may change based on region, type of customer and more.”
If the FPPA’s four-page comments in support of terminating the order are not met with like amounts from America’s onion growers, well, look to next year.
By this time next year, we’ll know it’s too late – especially if this market order goes away. That’s when we decide we made a mistake by not coming together as an industry. And there’s no do-overs. You won’t get the same protections because of trade agreements that the U.S. has engaged in through the years.
This is no time to let others do the talking. This is the time where your voice will be heard – if only you’ll speak up.
Comments are due Monday, Oct. 4, here: https://www.regulations.gov/comment/AMS-SC-21-0003-0018. The USDA will not accept form letters.
When making comments, focus on these topics:
• Comments must be original. No form letters, no copying other letters
• Comments should be directed to how this will affect your operation
• Losing this market order would harm the market to lower-standard foreign product, which could lower the price
• If you participate in a market order, talk about the good things the market order does for you: i.e.: promotions, research funding.
• In the U.S. we feed, house, and pay our employees well. With imports, you could be celebrating poor employment practices.
• America’s onion growers follow strict food safety guidelines, and foreign onions may not have such standards.