Gary Black “Exceeds Power” in Vidalia Onion Case

Late last week, a judge ruled that Ag. Commissioner Gary Black cannot set a packaging date for Georgia’s Vidalia onions while the case is in Appeals Court, indicating yet another blow to Black’s argument and case as a whole against Glennville Vidalia onion farmer Delbert Bland.  The judge noted that Black had “exceeded his power.”

The case, spawned last year over Bland’s failure to abide by Commissioner Black’s packaging date regulation, has been an ongoing legal battle since Delbert Bland challenged the regulation in court. He won in Fulton County Superior Court last year and now Black is appealing.

delbert bland
The issue has largely divided not only the Vidalia onion community but Georgia farmers as a whole bringing into question whether or not anyone has the authority to determine when a farmer can or cannot package and then sell goods.

The Commissioner’s office argues that it’s an effort to protect the brand, claiming that Vidalia onions are a token of Georgia culture and it is in the best interest of the state to protect the brand and not allow onions to be sold too early. He has also cited legislative direction that allows him some leeway in regulating the market without any check or approval.

Bland, on the other hand, says that he is skilled in his efforts to harvest onions and knows better than an arbitrary date whether or not the onions are ready to be sold. He also notes that if ‘Bland Onions’ are lousy, people simply won’t buy them anymore and he would not risk that. He currently controls roughly 1/4 of the $100 -million crop share in Georgia.

Over the course of the legal battle, speculation has swirled that Black is trying to protect some of his larger Vidalia onion donors in the state who cannot produce onions in the same time period, and as Bland has noted, have never had their onions ready “early.” Many argue that this has more to do with ‘leveling the playing field’ than protecting the brand.

The good news, however, is that the pending legal issues will not affect our Vidalia onion farmers in the upcoming season and goods be harvested and packaged as farmers see fit. Unless the Appeals Court comes down with a ruling against Delbert Bland.

7 comments

  1. Rick Day says:

    Closest thing a Black will have to some position of power within state government..

    .wait…

    Isn’t he GOP? Isn’t the GOP for the little people? Isn’t the GOP the one with the slogan “Limited government intrusion” and “anti-socialist regulators”?

    Who is paying for all of this legal action? Us? Isn’t the GOP about minimising government run amok damage on the consumer?

    And just why does the GOP want to declare war on farmers?

    I’ll just go freshen my coffee while you apologists dust off your apologies, prayers, finger pointing and feeble apologies for supporting the Corporatocracy.

  2. blakeage80 says:

    This is a strange one. I can’t imagine a government, GOP run or otherwise, knowing when a particular farmers onions are ready to sell. Is there any more that we are missing? Do the ‘early’ onions not meet Vidalia spec? Are they not as sweet? Do they make you cry more when you cut them up?

    • Max Power says:

      As someone who spent every summer of his youth in Vidalia and Lyons I can tell you immature onions simply don’t taste as good. That being said this is probably about using the power of the AG commissioner to counter Mr. Bland’s huge power in the market. His company controls 25% of the market, I know things have changed since the 70s but that blows my mind.

  3. saltycracker says:

    This doesn’t seem to be about protecting the public or the Vidalia farmers but more about cronyism/specific donors which both parties are guilty of.

  4. gcp says:

    If there is a trademark violation here it should be the affected growers prosecuting the case, not Black.

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