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Vidalia onion rule: Georgia judge refuses to stop onion shipment rule

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In what is being called the Vidalia onion rule, a Georgia judge has refused to intervene in a legal battle that hinges on an April 21 shipping date for the sweet onions, it was reported in the Christian Science Monitor on April 16. Now the onion farmer behind the dispute says that he is going to start shipping the Vidalia onions anyway, despite the rule against unripe Vidalias.

The Vidalia onion rule stems from a dispute between farmer Delbert Bland and the Georgia commissioner of agriculture, who said that Vidalia onions cannot be shipped to grocery stores before April 21 — the last full week of April, when the onions are said to be ripe. Bland had filed a request to stop the commissioner’s regulation.

But in the Vidalia onion decision handed down on Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Jay Stewart denied Bland’s request to stop the commissioner from enforcing the new rule on the shipping date for Vidalia onions, the Inquisitr reported. The Vidalia onion rule had actually been struck down by an Atlanta judge in March, but the shipping rule will remain in effect while state attorneys appeal the Atlanta judge’s decision, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said.

Vidalia onions are important to the Georgia economy, bringing in some $150 million a year in sales from around the country. The sweet Vidalia onions are also treasured in Georgia, and only certified onions grown in a specific 20-county region of Georgia can use the name Vidalia for their onions.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture had handed down new regulations governing when onion farmers could begin shipping their Vidalia onions to stores. Commissioner Black and some other onion farmers claimed that some Vidalia onions were being shipped too soon, before they were ripe — a practice, they said, that could hurt the treasured reputation of the Vidalia onion in Georgia. The Vidalia onion rule says that the onions can’t be shipped before the last full week of April.

For his part, Bland farms some 3,000 acres of Vidalia onions and says that the onion shipping rule was hurting his business. Despite the Vidalia onion rule, Bland said he was going to start shipping onions today, after already having them packed up and graded by federal inspectors.

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