Judge denies injunction request in Vidalia onion pack, ship case - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Judge denies injunction request in Vidalia onion law suit

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A Tattnall County judge will not stop the state of Georgia from enforcing rules on when farmers can pack and ship Vidalia onions.

Attorneys for Bland Farm asked Judge Jay Stewart to block the Georgia Agriculture Department from enforcing a rule that onion farmers cannot pack and ship onions until the last week of April.

Farmers agreed a generation ago to let the Georgia Agriculture Commissioner set such rules in an attempt to protect the Vidalia onion brand.

One of those rules was when farmers can start selling each spring. The commissioner sets a date to keep onions away from the market until they're ready. In decades past, commissioners set the start date year by year. Last year, Commissioner Gary Black settled on the last full week of April. This year, that falls on April 21.

Bland has argued one date can't take into account onions that are already ripe, and they could go bad while the farmer waits for that date. Bland's attorneys took the commissioner to court in Atlanta last month and a Superior court judge ordered the date rule "void".

However, Black appealed the ruling last month and wants to enforce the rule while he appealed.

"We are thankful for the speed of the court today and believe Judge Stewart correctly dismissed the case. With the help of the Attorney General's office, we look forward to continuing the discussions regarding the Vidalia Onion pack date in appellate court," said department spokesperson Mary Kathryn Yearta.

Bland told WTOC on Tuesday his farm is already packing onions and they plan to ship truckloads on Wednesday, days before the commissioner's start date.

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