The North Carolina Tomato Growers Association will conduct a statewide referendum in March on continuing the $20 per acre assessment on harvested commercial tomatoes.

Funds generated by the assessment would support research, education and marketing to promote North Carolina tomatoes.

The proposed assessment term is six years, beginning with the 2011 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 will be mailed to growers on March 3. Those who have not received ballots by March 7 will have 10 days to apply for an official ballot from the association by contacting Ellen Sprague, executive secretary of the North Carolina Tomato Growers Association, by mail at 2491 St. Paul’s Road, Hendersonville, N.C., 28792; by phone at (828) 685-3989; or by e-mail at ellen_moss@yahoo.com.

Growers should indicate their preference and return their ballot by mail. Ballots must be postmarked by 5 p.m. March 24.

If approved, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will continue to collect the assessment and turn funds over to the North Carolina Tomato Growers Association. The association’s board of directors will administer the funds.

The proposed assessment referendum must pass by a two-thirds majority.