Sen. Ossoff Pushing for Onion Breeder Position at ARS

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By Clint Thompson

Georgia’s Vidalia onion crop is already one of the top vegetables produced in the state. U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (GA) wants to ensure the crop continues to spike in production and popularity.

Onion research

He is calling on the U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies to appropriate funding to support an onion genetics and breeding expert position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Onion research
U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff

“We need to make sure that there is a qualified onion breeder working for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Vidalias alone are (worth) over $150 million a year to the state of Georgia,” Ossoff said. “These breeder positions, whether it’s in onions or, for example in blueberries, help our growers to advance their crops, optimize for quality and compete with competitors who are importing into the U.S. market. This is another goal for me. This is likely to move, I hope, through the Appropriations Bill rather than the Farm Bill. But I’m going to get that position filled at the Agricultural Research Service, get an onion breeder in there.”

The ARS has not hired an in-house onion breeding expert since 2021. Establishing a new onion breeder position would benefit Georgia producers now and into the future.

“It takes time, experimentation and research and development. Ultimately, it helps Georgia growers to succeed and when Georgia growers are succeeding, the state of Georgia is succeeding,” Ossoff said.

According to the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, onions netted a farm gate value of $168 million in 2021, accounting for 12% of vegetable production in Georgia.

The top onion-producing counties in Georgia are Tattnall, Toombs, Evans, Bulloch, Candler, Wayne, Montgomery, Wheeler, Union and Laurens, according to farm gate values in 2021.