While a fall 2020 continuance referendum did not result in enough producer votes to maintain the South Texas Onion Committee, industry feedback since that vote indicates that support for Marketing Order 959 is still strong, and its rules will remain in effect at least through the March-June 2021 season.
Dante L. Galeazzi, manager of STOC and CEO/president of the Texas International Produce Association, told us on Jan. 18, “With regards to the Federal Marketing Order #959, a continuance referendum held in late 2020 did not achieve a two-thirds vote to keep the order.”
Dante said that on Jan. 13 the USDA held a listening session, “where industry and growers shared their thoughts with officials.”
Info on that session can be found at https://www.ams.usda.gov/content/usda-announces-south-texas-onion-referendum-results.
The site says, “The marketing order authorizes the committee to establish grade, size, quality, container and pack requirements for onions grown in South Texas, and conduct research and promotion initiatives under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) oversight. A continuance referendum is required every six years to determine producers’ level of support for the program.”
During the session, participants discussed “procedural actions under consideration given the results of the referendum.” And the USDA provided interested parties with the opportunity to express their views and provide feedback.
Dante said, “The feedback from industry was overwhelmingly positive, sharing specifics regarding how the order is a tool for the industry to work together, and that the impact of losing protections afforded by the order would be detrimental to the industry.”
Explaining what losing the marketing order would bring, Dante said, “In the absence of the marketing order, several factors will immediately change, including: Texas onion standards will default to the USDA grade requirements only; the sale of culls (aka USDA #2 grade onions) will be permitted; onions imported from Mexico, Canada and other countries from March through July will no longer be subject to a USDA 8e inspection as a condition for importation; and the Texas onion industry will no longer have a regular forum in which the growers and shippers can gather to discuss and execute collective strategies specific to this single, regional commodity.” He added, “USDA will be preparing a Federal Register Notice in which they will be accepting comments from industry and others regarding potentially terminating the order. However, that process is expected to take several months before the notice is published. As such, Texas onion producers can expect that the order’s rules will remain in place through the 2021 Texas onion season, which is usually March through June.”