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Yellow and red onion supplies will carry through mid-March

Describing this past summer weather as “very mild and cooperative,” Ryan Fagerberg said his family’s onion operation in Eaton, CO, was able “to fill all of our storage bins for the first time in a couple of years.”

“I’m in pretty good shape regarding yellow and red onions and anticipate that I will have good supplies until mid-March,” Fagerberg said.

Parts of Colorado’s Front Range had experienced bad weather early in the growing season, and in late June a number of growers reported significant hail damage.

fagerbergredsFagerberg Farms was spared, and the operation kicked off the season with a normal harvest start in early August. Fresh crop sweets ran into October, and this year the multi-generation farm added certified organics to its program.

Looking at supplies and the market, Fagerberg commented, “I wish I had a few more white onions, given the strong market. However, I still have enough to supply our regular customers and handle normal outside mixer volume.”

At the same time the market strengthened, Fagerberg and others in growing/shipping have seen challenges emerge or compound in the industry.

“The new challenges I have faced this year all seem to be pertaining to labor in one way or another,” he said.

Commenting on the temporary work visa program for foreign agricultural workers for seasonal agricultural jobs in the United States, Fagerberg said, “The shortage of labor is a compounding problem that is affecting the produce industry in most states. We began using the H2A program this year, which in theory sounds like a good solution. However, I’m discovering that the program needs some reshaping in order to be more effective.”

And, he said, more regulations on the trucking industry are “making things difficult on logistics companies.”

Fagerberg noted, “Recent changes in regulations have put some of the smaller trucking agencies, which supplemented our logistics department, out of business.”

Looking ahead to 2018, the onion grower/shipper said no major changes are planned for the program.

“We will have a similar number of onion acres next year,” he said, adding, “We are leaning toward getting another onion harvester to help us finish harvest in a more timely manner.”