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Ga. farmer ships Vidalia onions ahead of official start date at center of legal battle

A major grower of Georgia's famous Vidalia onions says he's shipping early to supermarkets in defiance of the state agriculture commissioner, who has warned that a new regulation prohibits shipments before Monday.

Glennville farmer Delbert Bland has been fighting Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black in court. An Atlanta judge last month threw out the regulation that says Vidalia onions can't be packaged for shipping before the last full week of April. However, Black says the rule, adopted to keep unripe onions off store shelves, remains in effect while the state appeals.

Bland said he was beginning to ship onions Wednesday afternoon. He said a state agriculture official was at his farm observing.

Black's spokeswoman, Mary Kathryn Yaerta, said "appropriate steps" would be taken once the department knows more about Bland's actions.

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