Toward the end of the Idaho-eastern Oregon storage season, tons of onions had to be composted in mid-April because of lost foodservice demand related to the COVID-19 crisis. ( Shay Myers/Owyhee Produce )

U.S. onion growers should be paid $5 for every 50-pound bag of onions they have had to dump or donate because of the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent loss of foodservice sales.

That is the request of the National Onion Association to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, according to a news release.

The May 11 letter to Perdue was signed by Greg Yielding, NOA’s executive vice president, and Doug Bulgrin, president.

The proposed direct economic aid to onion growers would be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis and would be capped at $16 million, according to the association’s proposal.

Under the proposal, the USDA would pay $5 per 5O-pound unit of onions for growers who:

  • Have documentation they have had to dump deteriorated crops because of lack of market and no other viable options, retroactive to March 16;
  • Are having to dump deteriorated onions at present;
  • Donate onions for use as livestock feed; and 
  •  Who donate onions to food banks.

The letter said the Farmers to Families Food Box program does not help the bulb onion industry, because transportation costs alone will eat up the bulk of the money and not help growers.

Large onions typically purchased by the foodservice industry aren’t well-suited for retail sales, the letter said.

“A popular three-pound bag of onions could have only two onions in it with these foodservice sizes,” the letter said.”That has resulted in growers having to dump onions that they’ve already spent substantial fortunes on getting from field to table.”

The letter said the need is critical.

“The onion industry has never faced anything like this in the past,” the letter said. “The farmers need direct financial assistance to weather this economic storm.”


The Packer's Onion Updates

The Packer's COVID 19 Updates