Vidalia Onions Headed to Stores Ahead of State's Mandated Shipping Date

Apr 16, 2014

Farmers have been growing Vidalia onions in southeast Georgia since the 1930s. The sweet onions got their own trademark in 1986.

Whether you fry them, sauté them, or grill them, the battle over the Vidalia onions is heating up.

One of Georgia’s largest Vidalia onion growers is shipping his product today despite an order from the state agriculture commissioner to wait until next week. 

Delbert Bland farms some 3,000 acres of Vidalias in the southern part of the growing region. He says his crop is ready to go.

Mike Bowers, former state attorney general and now Bland’s lawyer, says a court ruling Tuesday will not change his client’s plans. Tattnall County Judge Jay Stewart ruled he would not stop the state from enforcing its shipping date. However, Bowers says Judge Stewart’s ruling is irrelevant because of court decision last month in Fulton County that said the commissioner’s shipping date is not enforceable.

Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black disagrees, telling WABE, “I am telling you that the rule is in effect, and we have a number of options open to us, and we’ll consider those when and if something takes place.”

The options include fining growers or even revoking their licenses. The state has the power to do that because it owns the trademark on Vidalias.

This is the first year Black has imposed a date to prevent growers from shipping earlier. He contends the quality of the onions has suffered in recent years because of early shipping.

Bowers told WABE he dares the commissioner to penalize his client for shipping his onions this week, adding, “If he goes after my client, that’s abuse of power.”

So if you see Vidalias in your grocery store this weekend, know that there have been a lot of legal fees already invested in them, and it appears there are more legal fees still to come.