National Onion Association request direct aid to onion growers from USDA
This week, the National Onion Association sent a request to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting direct economic aid to America’s onion growers not to exceed $16 million in the wake of losing half of their market due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Many onion growers grow onions for food service contracts, which are usually much bigger than onions bound for the supermarkets. That is to accommodate the bulk in which restasurants, and other food service establishments need to feed large crowds. When the nation’s restaurants, schools and other food service outlets were shut down due to the pandemic, it was an overnight stop on onion sales for many onion growers. Many were left with few options to dispose of their onions, and they had to either dump millions of pounds in piles to rot, or sow them into their fields.
These are not onions that the typical consumer wants, or even onions that consumer recipes accommodate. Typically, consumers — and retail outlets and even food banks — prefer smaller onions in 2- and 3-pound bags. If those bags were stuffed with a food service onion, you’d only be able to fit 1 or 2 onions.
While we applaud the USDA’s recent $3 bilion Farm to Families Food Box program, it doesn’t necessarily work for most onion growers, who do not have large distribution networks at the ready to deliver the food boxes. And, the money that is granted will be eaten up in transportation costs, with little going back to the farmer, who has already outlayed a small fortune in implements and overhead to get the onions out of the ground.
The National Onion Association, therefore, proposed an onion specific program, whereby the USDA pay assistance money directly to onion growers. Farmers would be paid $5 per 5O-pound unit of onions for farmers who:
• Have documentation they have had to dump deteriorated crops – because of lack of market and no other viable options – retroactive to March 16.
• Are having to dump deteriorated onions at present.
• Donate onions for use as livestock feed.
• Who donate onions to food banks.
We also suggested that a USDA inspector should visually certify all documentation, lots, bins, etc. to ensure proper checks and balances to the program. We also suggested penalties for those who would seek aid, but who have sold their onions on the market.
For more information on this, please reach out to Greg Yielding, executive vice president, National Onion Association, (970) 353-5895.The National Onion Association was incorporated in 1913 and represents more than 500 onion growers, shippers, packers and suppliers throughout the United States.
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