Georgia pecan growers will vote through a mail referendum March 1-March 30 on a proposal to increase the assessment they pay to fund the Georgia Pecan Commission.
Georgia pecan producers who grower 30 acres or more of pecans currently pay a half-cent per pound on in-shell nuts at time of sale to finance the commission’s promotion, education and research programs. Pecan industry leaders are proposing that the assessment be increased to one-cent per pound for in-shell nuts.
“We started the commission in 1995 at a half-cent per pound. A half-cent didn’t buy a lot back then, and it buys even less now. Over a million new trees have been planted in Georgia, and in about seven years those trees are going to come into production, “ said J.W. Christiansen, a GPC member from Albany who chairs the GPC Assessment Committee. “With another 50 to 70 million pounds of production, we’re going to have to promote harder and come up with new markets. We need all the funds we can get, and we’ll still be way behind our competitive nuts such as almonds, walnuts and pistachios.”
The commission’s marketing efforts include maintaining a website to answer consumer and media requests for recipes and nutrition information, promoting the health benefits of pecans at food industry meetings and working to secure export markets. The commission also funds research that addresses growers’ production issues such as insect control, tree diseases and new varieties.
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“With state and federal research dollars being cut, it’s very important that we continue funding some of our projects. We’re getting to the point where we’re having to break down some projects and not fund them completely,” said GPC member Mark Cook, who also serves on the Georgia Farm Bureau Pecan Advisory Committee. “With the half-cent increase we should be able to fund our researchers fully. The work that every researcher is doing for us is going to save producers money in the long run.”
Producers growing 30 or more acres of pecans are eligible to vote in the statewide referendum and have until midnight March 30 to postmark ballots distributed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA). Eligible producers who have not received a ballot should contact the GDA at 404-656-3678.
State law requires that 25 percent of the mailed ballots must be returned to the GDA for the ballots to be counted. At least 66 2/3 percent of the producers voting must vote in favor of the assessment increase for it to pass.
The Georgia Pecan Growers Association unanimously supports increasing the assessment, GPGA President Randy Hudson said.
“When you consider that our pecan prices have gone from 50 cents to $1 a pound to anywhere from $2 to $3 a pound, it is a very small percentage of the total gross value of the product,” Hudson said. “We’re asking all growers in Georgia who are eligible to vote for this assessment. We’re sure it will pay great dividends in the future.”