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Maloney Leads Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter to the USDA on Behalf of Hudson Valley Onion Farmers

Mar 24, 2021
Press Release

Maloney Leads Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter to the USDA on Behalf of Hudson Valley Onion Farmers

Newburgh, NY – Today, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) led a group of bipartisan and bicameral lawmakers in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) calling for answers regarding their recent suspension of import requirements that forced American onion producers compete directly against sub-standard foreign product.

“Suspending foreign import requirements and driving down the value of onions for U.S. growers, during an already difficult year, would be devastating for Hudson Valley farmers,” said Rep. Maloney. “The proposed changes would also have dangerous repercussions for American consumers by allowing imported onions to be placed on grocery store shelves with zero health and safety standards. Hudson Valley onion farmers need answers – and they need them now.”

A March 9th decision from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) eliminated Federal Marketing Order #959, which suspended section 8e import inspection requirements for onions. The USDA has temporarily paused that termination as onion farmers continue to seek answers.

Had the USDA’s decision to eliminate Federal Marketing Order #959 gone into effect, it would have removed foreign import quality requirements for onions into the U.S. for the entire industry. This would have allowed any onion to be imported into the U.S. with no inspections, subsequently driving down prices and quality standards for U.S. growers.

Maloney was joined on the letter by Rep. Elise Stefanik, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, U.S. Senator James Risch, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, Rep. Claudia Tenney, Rep. Chris Jacobs, Rep. Cliff Bentz, Rep. John Katko, Rep. Dan Newhouse, Rep. Chris Stewart, Rep. Russ Fulcher, Rep. Kim Schrier, Rep. Blake Moore, Rep. Mike Simpson, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Rep. Burgess Owens.

Rep. Maloney serves on the House Agriculture Committee.

Read the letter to the USDA here and below:

 

March 24, 2021

Mrs. Sonia Jimenez

Deputy Administrator

U.S. Department of Agriculture – Specialty Crop Program

1400 Independence Avenue SW

Washington, D.C. 20250-0235

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.

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Issues: