Posted March 27, 2014
 
A Georgia judge recently ruled that the state’s Agriculture Commissioner exceeded his authority when he issued a new marketing rule setting a start date for the shipping of Vidalia onions, according to an article by The Packer available here.
 
Judge Wright wrote, “(The commissioner’s) desire to regulate Vidalia onions to further the goal of preventing premature harvesting is certainly commendable.”  She continued, “However, to reach this end, defendants are not authorized to enlarge the scope of (the statute), to change this statute by interpretation, or to establish different standards than those set forth within this statute without the involvement of the legislature.” 
 
The new rule would have prevented growers from shipping Vidalia onions before the last full week in April, April 21 for this year.
 
Commissioner Gary Black will appeal this ruling, according to an article by The Packer available here.  Black argues that he was within his statutory authority when he changed the rule and set a permanent start date for shipping the onions.
 
“Lost in this discussion is (that) it is the sole responsibility of the commissioner to protect the integrity of the Vidalia onion trademark, a trademark registered to the Georgia Department of Agriculture,” said Black.  Black also said the “majority of growers are in favor of this rule.”
 
The plaintiff, Delbert Bland, owner of Bland Farms, argues that growers should “continue to be allowed to ship Vidalia onions as early as they want, provided they pass inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as required by Georgia law.”
 
Vidalia onions are subject to a federal marketing order and state regulations.

 

For more information on marketing orders, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.