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Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - 5:15pm

Appeals Court Sides With Georgia Ag Department Against Vidalia Farmer

An appeals court judge is siding with the state’s agriculture commissioner in a case pitting him against a Vidalia onion grower from south Georgia.

In a ruling Tuesday, Judge Michael Boggs says Georgia Ag Commissioner Gary Black has the authority to establish a packing date for the famously sweet onions. Farmer Delbert Bland challenged that rule last year, saying he should be able to harvest when he believes the onions are ready for market. State Ag officials say the pack date in late April is meant to protect the quality of the onions and the Vidalia brand. Growers who violate the rule could face steep fines.

A Fulton County judge sided with Bland last March, but Black successfully appealed. Bland could not immediately be reached for comment, but he is expected to appeal the latest decision to the Georgia Supreme Court. In a statement released by his office, Black said, "We would like to thank the court for their attention to this matter and are pleased with the their decision as we continue to work with growers to ensure the quality of the Vidalia onion brand."