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Snake River Produce cites adequate supplies, steady business for onions

Snake River Produce General Manager Kay Riley said his Nyssa, OR, onion operation was in its “taking care of business mode” with adequate overall supplies and steady business.

“We’re experiencing some transportation problems, like everyone else,” Riley said of tight trucks and fewer rail cars available. “Trucks have been a chronic problem, which is normal for this time of year. The availability of rail cars is a concern, but I think if we can get reliable rail service, we’ll mitigate the truck issue.”

snakeriverproduce Snake River Produce General Manager Kay Riley and Transportation Manager/Sales and Marketing Assistant Tiffany Cruickshank at the Idaho-Oregon Fruit and Vegetable Association conference in June. As for the onions themselves, Riley said, “Our yellow supplies are adequate, reds are in good supply and whites are tight. We’ve planned things out so we’ll have onions through early March, and our supplies on colors are pretty normal right now. Business has been steady, and we had a good August, September and October.”

One of several Treasure Valley operations that lost structures to “Snowmageddon” of 2017, SRP has a new facility nearing completion, and both packing and offices will be housed in the new building in the next several weeks.

“Our onions are all in storage now, and we’re packing them from our existing shed,” Riley said. “The facility is almost complete, and the production line is in place. We expect to be running in early 2018, and our offices will be relocated then, too.”

The longtime onion man said SRP is “looking into 2018 and what we’ll be planting,” and he said, “We will continue to transition ownership as well. Some of our grower base is retiring, and new growers are coming into the industry. So we’ll be revamping ourselves a little bit. The new facility will be able to increase production, and with transitioning ownership there will be additional acreage.”

Issues that have plagued the produce industry for several seasons continue to be problematic, he said. “Labor is always a main issue. And so are overproduction and transportation. We did not have overproduction in Idaho-Eastern Oregon this year, certainly.”

He added, “On labor, our government needs to quit dancing around the situation and fix it. It would not be difficult to create a guest worker program that would allow people in who would actually work. Some people in our government should be ashamed of themselves.”

Riley also commented on the transportation hub that has been approved for the region by a bill signed earlier in the year by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. “We will receive a direct benefit from this,” he said. “It could very well be a huge answer to the area depending on the structure. It will definitely open markets for us.”

A member of the hub oversight committee, Riley said site selection is in progress. “A lot has to happen before ground is broken,” he said. “And we have to move along pretty quickly. But it’s going well, and it’s a very good committee. There will be news soon.”