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Monday, April 14, 2014 - 1:54pm

Vidalia Onion Farmer Takes State Back To Court

Georgia’s largest Vidalia onion grower is taking the state agriculture commissioner back to court Tuesday. He’s asking a judge in Tattnall County to give him the go-ahead to harvest this week.

Ag Commissioner Gary Black says farmers who harvest the sweet onions before the official “pack date” of April 21 could face steep fines. Black says he wants to make sure immature onions don’t arrive in stores and damage the Vidalia brand.

Delbert Bland raises nearly 3000 acres of onions in southeast Georgia. He’s sued the ag commissioner, saying the rule will harm his business.

“It doesn’t matter what date the calendar says,” Bland says. “It’s all about how much heat you’ve had during the day, how much heat you’ve had at night, and what the conditions are on the onions.”

A Fulton County judge sided with Bland in March. But Black appealed. And he’s telling farmers not to pack onions this week. The commissioner says he will enforce the rule.

Former Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers is representing Bland, who’s asking another judge to confirm he has permission to harvest and pack onions this week.