The USDA announced on July 8 it will conduct a new referendum from Sept. 1 through Oct. 3 for South Texas onion producers to vote on whether to continue their federal marketing order 959.
After a 2020 referendum failed to reach the two-thirds vote threshold required to continue the marketing order and it was determined by the USDA that the marketing order would be discontinued, an extended comment period was opened by the federal department in response to the industrywide reaction.
Normally the referendums are conducted every six years, but with the majority of comments received by the USDA favoring the marketing order, the Ag Department announced in May it would conduct another referendum.
The USDA said at that time, “Results of a referendum USDA conducted with producers in 2020 failed to reach the level of support among voting producers for continuing the marketing order. However, feedback received during the public comment period of the proposed termination of the program demonstrated support for keeping the order. To assess the true level of producer support for the program, the Secretary of Agriculture has determined that a second referendum is appropriate.”
It also said, “The marketing order requires that a continuance referendum be held every six years. USDA would consider continuing the marketing order if two-thirds of the growers, or growers representing two-thirds of the volume of Texas onions in the referendum, vote in favor of continuance.”
The July 8 announcement said, “Producers who produced onions within South Texas during the period of Aug. 1, 2020, through July 31, 2021, are eligible to vote. Notice of the referendum was published in the Federal Register on July 8, 2022.”
The USDA will consider continuing the marketing order if two-thirds or more of producers voting in the referendum, or producers representing two-thirds or more of the volume of Texas onions, vote in favor, it added.
The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will mail ballots and voting instructions by U.S. mail, United Parcel Service or through electronic mail to all producers of record. AMS will provide an option to return ballots electronically. Eligible producers who do not receive a ballot by Sept. 1 should contact Abigail Maharaj at Abigail.Campos@usda.gov or by phone at (863) 324-2145.
Requests for a ballot may also be faxed to (863) 291-8614 or mailed to USDA, AMS, 1124 First Street South; Winter Haven, Fla., 33880.
More information about the marketing order regulating the handling of South Texas onions is available on the 959 South Texas Onions webpage.