New York’s senators are crying for an investigation of onion prices, saying Canada is subsidizing growers north of the border who then have an unfair advantage when they sell their onions in New York.
“New York State is home to prime onion-producing land, yet our farmers are unable to sell their goods in a domestic market that is flooded by cheap Canadian exports,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee. She and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Commission and the U.S. Trade Representative asking them to look into the problem.
“Farmers across the country have been struggling to keep up with growing production costs, while Canadian exporters have been able to dump cheap onions onto the market at prices comparable to 30 years ago,” Gillibrand said. “Since Canada has similar production costs, the only way this could be happening is through some type of government subsidy that is lowering their costs.”
Schumer added, “Some of the best onions in the country come right from Orange County’s Black Dirt region, as well as from other upstate counties. However, due to Canada’s suspected unfair pricing practices, cheap Canadian onions are flooding United States markets and leaving New York onion farmers at a steep competitive disadvantage.”
The senators noted they are supporting the concerns of the National Onion Association, which raised the issue.
According to a Cornell Cooperative Extension report, onions are also grown on muck lands in several counties in the Rochester area, including Wayne, Orleans, Genesee and Yates counties. They also can be one of the most expensive vegetables to produce because of their susceptibility to pests and the way they won’t thrive in the face of weeds.
The senators’ letter says growers in Orange County were getting $5.25 and 5.75 for a 50-pound bag of medium yellow onions in the 1980s. Today’s prices, accounting for inflation, should be $13 to $14 for that amount, but in reality farmers are getting paid half of that. The “black dirt” onion region of Orange County is southwest of Poughkeepsie.
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