The North Carolina Tomato Growers Association will conduct a March referendum on continuing the $20 per acre assessment on harvested commercial tomatoes. Funds generated by the assessment would support research, education and programs to promote Tar Heel tomatoes.

The proposed assessment term is six years, beginning with the 2005 crop. All North Carolina farmers engaged in the production of tomatoes on a commercial basis, including owners of farms where tomatoes are produced, tenants and sharecroppers, are eligible to vote.

Ballots were mailed to growers on March 3. Those who have not received ballots should immediately contact Stephanie Wise, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services marketing specialist, at (828) 253-1691, ext. 18, or at stephanie.wise@ncmail.net.

Growers should indicate their preference about the referendum and return their ballot by mail. All ballots should be postmarked by 5 p.m. on March 24 and mailed to: Ellen Sprague, Executive Secretary, North Carolina Tomato Growers Association, 316 South Moore Street, Clayton, N.C. 27520.

If approved, NCDA&CS will continue to collect the assessment funds and turn them over to the North Carolina Tomato Growers Association, whose board of directors would then administer the funds.

The proposed assessment referendum must pass by a two-thirds majority. The March referendum is effective statewide.