The USDA announced on Nov. 8 in the Federal Register it has reopened the comment period on its proposal to terminate Marketing Order 959, which regulates the handling of onions grown in South Texas. The comments will now run until Dec. 8.
A release from the USDA said, “The proposed rule to terminate the marketing order was published in the Federal Register on August 5, 2021, and the comment period closed on October 4, 2021.
During the initial comment period, USDA received a request to extend the comment period for an additional 30 days to allow those affected by the rulemaking to weigh in on the proposed termination of the program.”
OnionBusiness reported in mid-October that nearly 100 comments had been posted on the Federal Register site during the initial comment period, with growers, shippers, industry boards and committees as well as several government officials from multiple states had weighed in on the issue, with all but two comments favoring reinstatement or extending the dates of other federal marketing orders that are affected by the termination of S. Texas MO 959.
Marketing Order 959 was established in 1961 and “authorizes the South Texas Onion Committee to conduct research and promotion initiatives, establish minimum quality requirements under USDA’s oversight and requires a continuance referendum every six years to determine producers’ level of support for the program.”
Such a referendum was held last fall, and the number of votes fell short of what was required to continue the order. The USDA announced its intention to terminate the MO, which prompted a reaction from the onion industry and a decision by the USDA to have a comment period.
When asked why he thought the USDA had extended the comment period in light of the first period’s responses that heavily favored reinstating the marketing order, National Onion Association Executive Vice President Greg Yielding said, “We really have no idea why they extended it. But we are asking all of our members who have not commented to do so. We don’t recommend for people who commented earlier to comment again, but if there are people on farms or in companies who didn’t comment last time, go ahead and do it.”
He said the NOA will send out an email blast to that effect, requesting that all new comments from individuals who did not comment previously be submitted to the USDA.
Dante Galeazzi, CEO/president of the Texas International Produce Association and manager of STOC, also addressed the new comment period, saying, “USDA advised us that they were reopening the comment period at the request of a public commenter who asked for more time.” He said the initial response to the matter was “overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the order,” and he added, “I suspect that USDA simply wants to ensure that all parties have an opportunity to share their thoughts before a final decision is made, to ensure that people later cannot accuse the agency of not having provided sufficient opportunity for people to share their views.”
The USDA release advised, “Interested parties can post comments concerning the proposed termination at www.regulations.gov or email them to MarketingOrderComment@usda.gov. All comments submitted by the deadline will be made available for public review and will be considered before a final determination is made.”
It said, “More information about the marketing order regulating the handling of south Texas onions is available on the 959 South Texas Onions webpage.”