(a) The Association may conduct among tobacco growers a referendum upon the question of whether an assessment shall be levied on tobacco sold in this State.
(b) The Association shall determine the amount of the proposed assessment and the date by which the referendum ballot must be returned by mail as provided in this section.
(c) The amount of the proposed assessment shall be stated on the referendum ballot. The amount may not exceed fifteen cents (15) for each hundred pounds of tobacco marketed in this State. If the assessment is approved in the referendum, the Association may set the assessment at an amount equal to or less than the amount stated on the ballot. If the Association sets a lower amount than the amount approved by referendum, it may increase the amount annually without a referendum by no more than one cent (1) for each hundred pounds of tobacco marketed. The increased rate may not exceed the amount approved by referendum and may not exceed the maximum allowable rate of fifteen cents (15) for each hundred pounds.
(d) The Association shall mail a referendum ballot to all known tobacco growers in the State for whom the Association has a current and valid mailing address at least three months prior to the date the ballot must be returned. Additionally, the Association must, for the greater of three months or 90 days before the date the ballot must be returned, (i) provide a printable referendum ballot on the Association's official Web site and (ii) make hard copies of the referendum ballot available at all county North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service offices. The ballots shall be returned to the Commissioner of Agriculture by the date set by the Association. The Department shall be responsible for counting the votes and reporting the results of the referendum to the Association.
(e) All tobacco growers may vote in the referendum. Any dispute over eligibility to vote or any other matter relating to the referendum shall be determined by the Association. The Association shall make reasonable efforts to provide tobacco growers with notice of the referendum and an opportunity to vote. (2013-311, s. 1.)
Last modified: March 23, 2014