The long-awaited assessment on North Carolina flue-cured finally became a reality when a grower referendum was declared favorable after a three-month balloting period. And the vote was emphatic: the assessment was approved on 88 percent of ballots in a mail-in referendum, considerably more than the two-thirds majority needed for the assessment to pass.
"The margin of support for this effort indicates the level of priority our farmers place on having a strong and organized voice to advocate on important issues,” said Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina President Tim Yarbrough of Prospect Hill, N.C. "It means the association will have the resources it needs to protect and advocate for the business of growing tobacco, and the need for that has never been greater.”
Since its creation in 1982, the association has been funded by membership dues and industry contributions.
From the beginning of the 2014 season, buyers have been collecting the assessment at the point of sale, and when the marketing season is over they will submit the funds to the N.C. Department of Agriculture for distribution to the association.
Only 10 cents per hundred pounds sold in North Carolina was collected from the 2014 crop, although the legislation allows for a rate of up to 15 cents per hundred pounds. Check-off programs supporting tobacco research and export promotion in North Carolina will continue.
The law also provides that a grower may request a refund of assessments he paid by filing a refund request with the TGANC. Note that such a request must be filed by Dec. 31, of the year in question.
The referendum did not include burley or dark tobacco, and North Carolina growers of those types will not pay the assessment.
North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, himself a former TGANC board member, expressed his approval of the voting. The statewide vote on a commodity promotion assessment for tobacco, the first ever in North Carolina, was, he said, long overdue.
“Until now, tobacco was one of the few commodities in our state that didn't have a check-off program to support its work,” said Troxler.
It is vitally important now. “Most of our customers are outside of the United States. Making sure those customers understand about the quality we produce, the consistency of our production and also the stability of doing business here—these are messages that have to get out.”
He noted that the tobacco business is changing with the advent of e-cigarettes. "We in North Carolina are probably going to get into the business of producing liquid nicotine for e-cigarettes,” he said. “The growers association will have to be involved in that.”
North Carolina is the largest producer of tobacco in the country, and also the largest producer of flue-cured tobacco.
Peach growers approve check-off, too
North Carolina peach growers approved an assessment that will fund research and marketing efforts, according to the North Carolina Peach Growers Society. The assessment received a two-thirds majority vote from eligible peach growers during a mail-in referendum in April.
This was the second attempt by the society to establish an assessment for the peach industry. A referendum held in October failed to achieve the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass. Under state law, the society is able to hold a second referendum within a year if the original vote fails to pass.
“Growers from across the state weighed the pros and cons of an assessment during the society’s annual meeting in January 2014,” said Dexter Hill, peach marketing specialist for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. “It was decided the peach industry could really benefit from the research and marketing an assessment could provide” and so a second referendum was sought.
The annual assessment will be based on the total number of peach trees per commercial orchard. Those who grow between 100 and 500 trees will be assessed $100. Growers with 501 to 2,500 trees will be assessed $250. Those who grow more than 2,500 trees will be assessed $350.
The assessment goes into effect Jan. 2015, and remains in effect through December 2020. Funds will be collected by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and distributed to the Growers Society, which will determine how to allocate the money to improve peach research and marketing efforts in the state.
North Carolina is the 13th-largest peach producer in the nation. The majority of the state’s peaches are sold directly to consumers at farmers markets and roadside stands.