Wyden, Merkley Tell Ag Dept. That Proposed New Rule Could Hurt Oregon Onion Producers

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today raised concerns with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that a proposed new federal rule could hurt U.S. onion growers in Eastern Oregon and nationwide by letting foreign producers unfairly flood the domestic market.

The letter from Wyden and Merkley to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack covers the proposed elimination of what’s known as Federal Marketing Order 959.

“Eastern Oregon and Idaho together make up one of the largest onion-producing regions in the United States. The region’s producers follow Federal Marketing Order 958 for grade and inspection requirements, but also rely on Marketing Order 959 to ensure those grade and inspection requirements are followed year-round,” Wyden and Merkley wrote. “Removing Marketing Order 959 opens the door to imported onions being allowed to flood the US market without the protection of the close monitoring, regulation and inspection that will still be required of US onion producers.

“Onion producers in the United States work tirelessly to ensure their products are safe, healthy, and meet necessary federal requirements,” the Oregon senators wrote. “Allowing foreign produce to be sold without the same expectation and expense would be a severe detriment to domestic producers and markets.   We request that the USDA ensure that fair competition between domestic and foreign produce continues either by reinstating Marketing Order #959 or extending the standards through a different method, such as extending Marketing Order #958 year-round.”

Wyden and Merkley also asked that the comment period for this proposed rule change be extended by an additional 30 days from its current Oct. 4 date so onion producers have sufficient opportunity to weigh in on the proposed rule change and the industry effects. 

The entire letter is here.