Congresswoman Stefanik writes letter to USDA seeking clarification for onion growers

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWTI) — Congresswoman Elise Stefanik is asking for clarification for onion growers across the country.

On Wednesday, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and Congressman Patrick Maloney led twelve other Congress members and four Senators in sending a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture. The letter requested clarification for onion growers about the USDA’s decision to stop certain inspection requirements.

Specifically, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service eliminated Federal Marketing Order #959 on March 9. This suspended inspection requirements for onions.

According to Congresswoman Stefanik, “this decision came with no prior notice for producers.”

“I will not sit back and allow our farmers to be treated unfairly at the regulatory level,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “The USDA’s decision to suspend import inspections without prior notice or input from farmers put our North Country onion growers in direct competition with sub-standard foreign products during an already incredibly difficult year. I call on USDA to provide rationale for this decision and provide answer to our farmers, who deserve access to fair and open markets in the United States.”

Text from the letter reads:

Dear Mrs. Jimenez,

We write to you regarding the March 9th decision from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing
Service (AMS) to eliminate Federal Marketing Order #959, which suspended section 8e import
inspection requirements for onions. This decision effectively blindsided our nation’s onion
growers and came with no prior notice.

There are currently over 900 million pounds of onions in storage across our states including New
York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington that would have been
required to compete directly against sub-standard foreign product. The COVID-19 pandemic has
also resulted in higher inventories for many growers as restaurants, schools, and other entities
have been closed or operating in a reduced capacity. This latest USDA action will have severe
market implications and drive down the value of onions for U.S. growers in an already difficult
year.

We request that USDA outline a process to inform onion growers of this decision and answers to
the following questions:

• What influenced USDA’s decision to suspend the Section 8e import requirements with
such short notice and without the advisement of relevant industry groups?
• Why did the USDA decide to completely suspend the Section 8e requirements without,
at the very least, requiring foreign onions to make a U.S. #2 grade in order to enter?
• Why did USDA initially decide to proceed with the suspension without a formal
comment period and notification to relevant stakeholders and Members of Congress?

As our growers seek to market their crop for the next 90 days, we believe it is imperative that
USDA provide answers to the above questions to reassure growers that all decisions made by
AMS moving forward include input from the producers and industry that such decisions will
impact.

We thank you for your time and attention to this matter.
Sincerely,


This letter was signed by Congresmembers Elise Stefanik, Sean Maloney, Claudia Tenney, Chris Jacobs, Cliff Bentz, John Katko, Dan Newhouse, Chris Stewart, Russ Fulcher, Kim Schrier, Blake Moore, Mike Simpson, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Burgess Owens, and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Mike Crapo, Ron Wyden and James E. Risch.

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