Christopher Pawelski+ Your Authors @ChrisPawelski A 4th generation family onion farmer married to the wonderful Eve & father of two awesome boys, Caleb & Jonah. Follow & I follow back! All warped views my own. Sep. 15, 2019 18 min read + Your Authors

A month ago local growers got $.52 per lb. for yellow onions. Today we’re getting $.22. I can’t pay my bills at that price. The avg price at the grocer is nearly $2.00. I do 95% of the work to get it there. Ask your grocer why can’t they pay a fair price.

Back in 2010 I testified before the US Senate Agriculture Committee as it held the 1st hearing to reauthorize the Farm Bill on crop ins. I discussed this issue of farm prices received during the panel discussion when I mentioned Bugs Bunny. See:  https://muckville.com/2014/02/04/video-of-my-u-s-senate-agriculture-committee-testimony-on-the-farm-bill-in-2010/ 

As I said during the panel discussion (which you can watch on my Muckville blog) if this is not addressed we will lose all of our small family farmers. All these other schemes are merely shuffling deck chairs as the Titanic sinks.

The price now for 2 inch diameter yellow onions is $.16 a pound. That’s not much different than what we were paid in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was still in his first term, Eddie Murphy was on SNL and Roger Moore was James Bond. #sad

To understand to what degree out part of the sector, vegetables & fruits have long been ignored by the federal govt in terms of programs & policies see when my wife called in to C-Span:  https://youtu.be/0o1WXZA26Lk 

It’s been 10 days since this tweet. I’ve been able to sell just 2 tractor trailer loads (900 50lb bags) of 2 inch onions for $.16 a lb. One of those loads is still at my place, not picked up.

Every year, for decades, this is the pattern. Demand is high, the price is high, then we start to sell and both plummet. I am told that movement is slow and no one is buying and eating onions now. Or Canada is to blame. Always something is to blame.

But in decades of growing and selling onions not a single time has when our marketing season started has either demand and/or price risen. Not-a-single-time.

When you roll dice and roll snake eyes 60 or 70 times in a row, never rolling another combination not a single time, you start to think that maybe, just maybe, you’re playing with loaded dice. Maybe the DOJ & the House & Senate Ag Committees need to look into this.

It needs to be determined how and why this happens very single year. Despite every sort of weather and production variable this happens. Are the chain store outlets working together to do this? If so, doesn’t that violate current anti-trust laws? One would think ... 🤔

Yesterday I was offered $.15 per lb for 2 inch diameter yellows ... in order to compete with Canadian imports. That’s a price well below my cost of production this season. And it’s nearly what I was paid dollar for dollar over 30 years ago.

I think we need some hashtags to help spread the word: #payfarmersfairly #chainstorespayfarmersfairly #grocerychainspayfarmersfairly #fairpriceforfarmers #onionsarefromGod I had to add the last one.

For those of you that are longtime followers on Twitter you know how hard I try and work to produce this crop. All I ask is a fair return so I can support my family. If the system can’t deliver it the system needs to be fundamentally changed. #onions #fairpriceforfarmers

We've dealt with a lot of adversity over the years. See:  https://muckville.com/2014/01/13/the-backstory-behind-my-150000-50lb-bag-of-onions-on-ebay/ 

Another past example of dealing with adversity:  https://muckville.com/2013/11/18/the-backstory-on-our-first-two-cnn-appearances/ 

This article just came out today in the Albany Times Union online and comes out in the print version tomorrow. It discusses this situation.  https://www.timesunion.com/7day-state/article/Upstate-produce-farmers-feeling-the-squeeze-by-14474528.php 

 https://www.thepacker.com/article/us-senator-asks-usda-investigate-grower-price-disparity 

 https://www.recordonline.com/news/20191001/local-onion-farmers-struggling-to-break-even 

The latest: Local repacks are reporting that Canadian 2 1/4 inch yellow onions are somehow coming into US markets like NYC at $.14 lb. That means they expect local produce to be less. And still virtually nothing local being bought. Told no demand. Situation is bleak.

Seen in Shop Rite 10/05: yellow onions $.83 per lb. The price paid to the local grower: between $.14 and $.17 per lb.

Seen in Shop Rite 10/05: red onions are $.90 a lb bagged & $1.29 a lb loose. Price paid to the local grower: $.22-.24 a lb.

October 7th, 2019 ... UPDATE: I cannot sell an onion. Most of the local growers in my area cannot sell. The price continues to drop ... rumors 2 inch yellow onions may drop to $.12 a lb. @ 1/4 yellows may drop to $.16 a lb or less.

Statistical report just released on onion supply on hand. Supply is significantly lower now vs at this point last year (81,621,150 vs 85,566,000) Yet the price is significantly lower. Now why is that? 🤔 #onions #antitrust

I thought i had included in this thread but I had not ... here is Senator Gillibrand's press release regarding her latest efforts into addressing this extremely problematic disparity:  https://www.gillibrand.senate.gov/news/press/release/as-new-york-fruit-and-vegetable-farmers-struggle-with-produce-pricing-crisis-gillibrand-calls-on-usda-to-investigate-why-prices-paid-to-farmers-arent-keeping-up-with-the-market- 

Seed Company Reps contacting me about making my 2020 seed order. My response, I'd love to but first I have to sell my crop this year & hopefully earn enough money to pay my bills. That's highly in doubt now. So frustrating to do so much work with zero to show for it.

UPDATE 10/9/19: Finally sold a tractor trailer load of 2 inch yellow onions. My third for the season. I haven’t the foggiest clue as to what I’m getting paid. Everyone blames Canada for the depressed prices. #depressing

Just found out what I’m getting paid for, for only the 3rd tractor trailer load this season, $7 per 50lbs or $.14 per lb. Next time you buy medium yellow onions at your grocer take note the farmer is only getting $.14 per lb., a price I got over 30 years ago.

$.14 a lb. How do I pay my employees, my bills & my expenses? $.14 a lb is roughly $.10 a lb below cost of production. This is untenable, unsustainable, unbelievable, unacceptable & fundamentally unfair. Please RETWEET this thread and ask your followers to retweet! THX!

When you all passed the FFLPA you had this gooey preamble in that that gushed on how much you loved farmers in this State. So what are you doing about this?

Update on the 3rd load: Spoke too soon ... 9 pallets still to be picked up. Hopefully they’ll be picked up Monday and praying both demand & price rises.

UPDATE: Grocery shopping 10/13 at Shop Rite. Yellow onions are $.83 per lb & reds are $1.49. Price to local growers: yellows ranging between $.17-$.14 and reds $.26-$.22 per lb. Let me emphasize, these are prices I received over 30 years ago. My bills are not.

It’s October 15th ... I should be grading/packing onions. “It’s slow” they say. No one is buying and the price is in the toilet. Ever wonder why farmers get morbidly depressed? #onions #hopeless #shouldntbe

UPDATE: Sold a 4th load of medium yellows. Still only getting $.14 per lb. That’s a poverty wage, below the cost of production. Thank God I have a good therapist.

UPDATE: My 4th tractor trailer load was picked up today, of 2 inch yellow onions, at $.14 per lb. I also sold a load of 2 inch and down at $.08 per lb. That’s a good price, sadly, considering the price of 2 inch. I hope the price goes up so I can make payroll.

Working on my 5th load of 2 inch yellow onions for the season this morning. Price is still well below the cost of production but at least I’ll have money to pay some seed bills and cover my payroll ... once I get paid in 30 days. #onions #miserable

When I visit a Doctor’s office the intake nurse doing vitals will typically ask “do you suffer from depression.” I’ll pause, smile and reply, “I’m a farmer, that goes with the territory.” #sadtruth

In 2015 I was interviewed for an article in The Epoch Times entitled "Onion and Apple Growers Bring their Produce to Market." It details much of the same issues this thread discusses. Little has changed. See:  https://www.theepochtimes.com/onion-and-apple-growers-bring-their-produce-to-market_1877151.html 

Print version vs online version can be found on my blog here:  https://muckville.com/2016/01/26/recent-media-pieces-chris-pawelski-has-appeared-in/ 

Back on 10/13 onions were $.83 per lb at Shop Rite. They are currently running a sale, lowering the price to $.33 per lb. One would assume they aren’t selling for a loss at $.33 per lb....

... I’m still only getting paid $.14 per lb, despite my farm being 95% responsible for getting that onion to that shelf. Would it kill these chain stores to see to it the farmer was at least paid what it cost to grow these expensive crops? #onions #sad

UPDATE: Another days passes and I could not sell any more onions, even at the absurdly low price of $.14 per lb. Maybe someone will buy one of these two tractor trailer loads on the floor tomorrow. How will I pay my bills? #onions #hopeless

If you haven’t done it already please LIKE and RETWEET my pinned tweet and spread the word! Thank you! #onions #pricedisparity #grateful

Right now things look hopeless. #bleak

UPDATE 10/31/19: More trick than treat. Spending time with Mom to give her caregivers a break. No grading again today. Supposedly no demand. Price is still in the toilet. Don’t know what to do. Please buy some onions, complain to your grocers and elected officials.

While my grader is idle, and no one is working, I’m watching tv because there is nothing else I can do. So depressing. So many bills and zero money coming in. #onions #pricedisparity #antitrust

We had some pretty horrific years on the farm, crop losses from weather events and such, and selling for a fair price has always been a challenge, but with Dad it was always fun. This isn't fun anymore. It's just sad.  https://muckville.com/2013/10/08/he-sniffs-his-hat/ 

This article I was interviewed for that appeared in The Hindu in 2012 details the same problems we growers have been dealing with. See:  https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/sainath/Knowing-your-onions-in-New-York/article12438011.ece 

UPDATE 11/03/19: Grocery shopping at Shop Rite, medium yellow onions are $.83 per lb. If I could sell mine I’d still only get $.14-$.16 per lb.... if I could sell them that is. I have massive bills to pay and no way to pay them. #depressing #doesnothavetobethisway

11/6/19 UPDATE: Still no orders, 2 tractor trailer loads still sit on my floor, price still in toilet despite less of a domestic onion supply and now freezing weather approaches as I scramble to bring my #onions inside. Please spread this tweet thread around! #bleak

11/9/19 UPDATE: Nov onion storage report released. Over 17 MILLION less 50lb bags on 11/1 vs 11/1/18. Damage/loss from weather in multiple locations. India still is banning exports. Yet I can't sell my #onions & the price is still in the toilet. #Inexplicable #Shameful

UPDATE 11/12/19: As I prepare for my Hill meetings the next 3 days I’m told Canadian onions are coming into NY markets at $.18 to .16 a lb. With transport & packer fees the grower is maybe getting $.10 a lb. This makes zero sense. Where is #realDonaldTrump Admin on this?

UPDATE 11/14/19: Just finished 3 productive days on Capitol Hill. Had 10 meetings with staff & discussed the current crisis of extreme price disparity and apparent Canadian dumping. The various offices were extremely interested and supportive! #onions

UPDATE 11/16/19: In my local Shop Rite medium yellows still $.83 lb. Local price to growers still $.14-.18 lb but it may drop. And I still can’t sell. “No movement” I’m told. Looks like people are buying #onions here. Good thing they support us local farmers. #sad

While I’m loaded with onions I can’t sell & even if I could they’d be at below cost of production prices my outlets happily move cheap Canadian #onions. It’s sick. See:  https://www.thepacker.com/article/should-us-grown-produce-come-first 

This article is from 11/17/19:  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/18/bangladesh-flies-in-planeloads-of-onions-amid-national-outcry-over-shortage?CMP=share_btn_tw  When one observes what is currently taking place in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, etc ..., and the ripple effects that must be happening, yet here we have little to no demand and a price in the toilet ....

... one has to assume that gross market manipulation, collusion, anti-competitive practices and price fixing is taking place on the part of the grocery store chain outlets and the situation SCREAMS for enhanced federal scrutiny and oversight of the fresh produce industry.

One of the main topics I discussed during my recent trip to Capitol Hill was something called “internet bidding.” The grocery store chains are requiring their onion suppliers (not sure if this is happening with other crops) to submit online price bids for onions ...

... for all other bidders to see, months in advance. Well, the prices are seen by all but not the identity of the other bidders. Yes, months in advance, while the crop is still growing and in the ground. This is not like the Chicago Board of Trade....

Growers are not part of the equation and never can benefit. In fact, such a system virtually guarantees that the price will go only in one direction, down. The crop can be lost to weather disasters but the price still will be driven down (that happened in 2018)....

There is zero regulatory or any sort of oversight of this. And while it drives the price down every time (think eBay on steroids, in reverse) to the supplier there is ZERO guarantee it will translate to a lower price to the consumer. It just means the grocery store chain...

... has a larger spread of the money made on the crop. This is nothing more than market manipulation and an extremely sophisticated form of price fixing on the part of the chain stores. This in fact is one of the two main reasons my price is at 1980’s levels despite...

... an acute domestic and international onion crop shortage. When I discussed this during my 10 office visits on Capitol Hill 11/12-14 I got the exact same reaction, anger and jaws dropping. Thankfully I met with staff for the House Ag Comm, for 3 members of House Ag, ...

... for 3 members of Senate Ag, 3 members of Senate Judiciary and staff for 3 that are running for President. I think this is something that will be getting some scrutiny in the future. It is, on its face, absurdly egregious and outrageous and a prime example ...

... of why the fresh produce industry requires aggressive federal scrutiny and oversight. It’s an industry that currently acts with impunity, as if no one is, or ever will, ...

... be “minding the store.” I think we are now on the road for some real, positive change, for farmers and consumers.

UPDATE: 11/21/19 Still virtually no demand & not just me, my neighbors too. The price is still extremely & inexplicably low as well. Please, if possible, buy a bag or two, speak with the produce manager and ask for the phone number for the chains produce buyer....

... Ask them, why the massive price disparity between what they charge & farmers receive and why are they not paying farmers a fair price for their onions? If they blame the people they buy from point out with such a wide disparity nothing stops the chain from paying more.

And please keep retweeting my pinned tweet & spreading the word. I can’t express how much you’ve helped us and can’t express how appreciative I am for your support and kindness. Thank you!

UPDATE 11/22/19: An article just came out in the produce trade publication "The Packer" today, entitled: "Potato and onion sales run hot during the holidays."  https://www.thepacker.com/article/potato-and-onion-sales-run-hot-during-holidays  It’s quite the read but quite different from my experience. I and my neighbors can’t sell, ...

... the price is still low & Canadian produce continues to FLOOD our markets. The pic is of my packing shed. It’s dark, because I have no business now or all week. There is no reason for this. It’s pure greed and the entire food system demands oversight and overhaul.

UPDATE 11/25/19: Saw my rheumatologist today. Because I’m on Otezla & a potential side effect is depression-suicidal thoughts they have a protocol to make sure I’m ok. They asked if I’m depressed. I burst out laughing. I shared with the Dr & nurse my onion situation ...

... I told them that even though this website says movement & price is doing well ( https://onionbusiness.com/market-and-crop-update-for-november-21-2019/ ) I still can’t sell & the price is horrible. Right now I’m doing HEAP & weatherizing assistance applications for my Mom. Trying to keep busy best I can.

UPDATE 12/01/19: I actually have an onion order for this week, 12 pallets (45 50lb bags on a pallet) for Friday. That’s about 26 bulk boxes. That still leaves another 1,400 to go. I can’t complain. Better than nothing. Price is $.16lb. #depressing

UPDATE 12/06/19: Finally sold some onions. 540 50lb bags at $.16 a lb. Not at cost of production but I have massive bills to pay and no money. Hopefully demand and especially price will go up. So depressing.

I believe the website Threader @threader_app will compile this thread and provide a link for it making it easier to read. "compile"

UPDATE 12/08/19: Buckle up my friends ... shopping at Shop Rite today. Lots of onions in that onion display, too bad all of those bags but 2 are Canadian onions packed directly in Canada. Roughly 3,000 acres of locally grown but they’re selling what are probably ...

... government subsidized Canadian onions that have been dumped in our markets and are a major factor in putting us out of business. I can’t sell & here is a main reason why. A shopper was about to buy a bag of Canadians & I told her what was going on and convinced her ...

... to buy the one remaining bag of locally packed A. Gurda Produce. She wanted to support local and US farmers. I think most people do. Please spread the word and Retweet this pinned tweet thread! And thank you! #ShopRite #Canada #onions #subsidies #buylocal

Come on absurdly wealthy benefactors ... I know you are out there ... show your love for farming by sponsoring our farm so I can farm next season. I'll let you drive tractors, spit where you like & berate me like Dad did! 🤣

The website Threader @threader_app will compile this thread and provide a link for it making it easier to read. "compile"

Update 12/1/19: Just had a new and somewhat humiliating experience ... because we had no sales therefore no money we couldn’t pay our school taxes on time. Town Hall said I had to go to the County Building to the Comm of Finance ...

... When I got to the desk I said to the nice lady “want to watch a grown man beg?” She laughed. Turns out the tax has been relevied and will be combined with the County taxes due next month. I’m mortified. I told her this has never happened to us before. So mortified.

UPDATE 12/13/19: I am told that the price to the grower will drop further for onions. I am being offered $.14lb. for medium yellows. Canada getting blamed. How low can it go? Based on inflation and basic fairness it should be at least $.24lb. #onions

UPDATE 12/14/19: I was unable to sell a single onion this week. Despite exports being cut off from the nation responsible for 25% of world exports, demand and price is terrible for me. Evidently people stopped eating onions in August. This screams INVESTIGATION! #disgusted

I just had a local buyer stop in. Offered me $.12lb. I replied I need a price that remotely comes close to covering my expenses. They blamed mostly Canada & upstate. Told me to think about it. I called Eve & cried. This is approaching a hopeless situation. #onions

Well, it gets worse. I had a buyer text me this morning. He said the person he sells to is complaining that my onions “are rotten on top and smell bad.” They don’t and they aren’t....

I’ve sold them to two other buyers with no such complaints and a third cut every onion in a bag and his only complaint was size. I don’t know what I am going to do. I don’t. My brother and I have spoken to other packers in the area and ...

... I spoke with a number of growers and shippers in Michigan this week and they all have pointed the finger at the same thing … CANADA! They are all complaining how Canada is saturating our markets at very low prices. 24 2lb bags are still being delivered into NY at $9....

... Take out the packaging, transportation and broker fee in Canada and that leaves at best $5 or $6 for the Canadian grower. If I can’t survive selling for $7 they can’t survive at that price … not without “help.”...

And our grocery store chains suck. No one is putting a gun to their heads to buy Canadian product. Tehy could put a priority on US products, like Canadian grocers do for their stuff in Canada ( https://www.thepacker.com/article/should-us-grown-produce-come-first  ). But they don’t....


You can follow @ChrisPawelski.



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