By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
LANSING, Mich. — In a unanimous vote, Michigan’s onion producers recently approved a referendum to continue the Michigan Onion Promotion and Development Program for an additional five years.
Val Vail-Shirey, executive director of the Michigan Onion Committee, said the purpose of the program is to improve the economic position of state onion growers by creating greater marketing opportunities for their products.
“The onion industry in Michigan is fairly small. Like most states in the U.S. now, it’s shrinking a little bit,” Vail- Shirey said. “Those funds are critical to remain a viable grown commodity here in Michigan.
“A lot of the funds are used for research,” she added. “Different types of onions grow in different areas, so they conduct research to look at varieties and some of the disease and pest issues to help producers grow quality onions so they can remain competitive in the market.” Other activities include conducting advertising and promotion programs, assembling and disseminating marketing information and expanding the markets for Michigan onions.
Vail-Shirey said approximately 2,400 acres of onions are grown primarily in western and southwestern Michigan. The current program assessment is 6 cents per cwt., which generates about $30,000 per year to support the program. Other funding is sought through grants, as well as support from industry stakeholders and growers.
“Production is getting harder,” she explained. “As with other markets, the margins are getting tight, and there’s an impact from the import of onions, primarily from Mexico and Canada. We have a really good group of growers who are very dedicated to making the industry work.”
The Michigan Onion Promotion and Development Program was established in February 1977. This PA232 program requires a vote of the onion growers in Michigan every five years to continue. The program established the Michigan Onion Committee to perform the function of administering it.
A total of 10 valid ballots were cast in the referendum, with all of those voting yes. This represents about one-third of the state’s growers and approximately 364,099 pounds of onions produced.
For renewal of the program and its activities, more than 50 percent of the voting producers, representing more than 50 percent of the pounds sold by those voting, must approve it. Each producer was entitled to one vote representing a single firm, individual proprietorship, corporation, association, partnership or a husband-wife or family ownership.
The referendum was conducted by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.