Oct 28, 2013
Referendum set for watermelon growers

USDA has scheduled a referendum for eligible watermelon producers, handlers and importers.

The referendum, scheduled for Jan. 13 through Jan. 27, 2014, will allow watermelon producers, handlers and importers to vote on amending the Watermelon Research and Promotion Plan importer eligibility requirements to serve on the National Watermelon Promotion Board. The amendment would allow persons who both import and handle watermelons to choose whether they would like to seek representation on the board as an importer or a handler. Currently, persons who both import and handle watermelons can only seek representation as an importer if the majority of their watermelons are imported, according to USDA.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will conduct the referendum by mail. Ballots and voting instructions will be mailed on or before Jan. 6, 2014, to all eligible individuals who produced, handled or imported watermelons between Jan. 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2012 – the representative period – and who currently produce, handle or import watermelons.

Producers must be engaged in growing 10 acres or more of watermelons and importers must import 150,000 or more pounds of watermelons annually. Importers who import less than 150,000 pounds of watermelons annually and did not apply for and receive reimbursements of assessments during the representative period are eligible to vote in the referendum.

Eligible producers, handlers or importers who do not receive a ballot by Jan. 13, 2014, should email AMS referendum agent Jeanette Palmer.

The Watermelon Research and Promotion Act requires that a referendum be conducted before changes to the plan go into effect, and that the amendment be approved by a majority of producers, handlers and importers of watermelons voting in the referendum.

For more information, write the Referendum Agent, Promotion and Economics Division, Fruit and Vegetable Program, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Room 1406-S, Stop 0244, Washington, D.C. 20250-0244; call 202-720-9915 or 888-720-9917. Copies of the proposed amendment to the Watermelon Research and Promotion Plan can be viewed here.

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