Bill Summary for S 582 (2023-2024)

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Summary date: 

Jun 6 2023

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2023-2024 Session
Senate Bill 582 (Public) Filed Tuesday, April 4, 2023
Intro. by Jackson, Sanderson, B. Newton.

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Bill summary

House committee substitute makes the following changes to the 5th edition.

Enacts new Article 68B (Grade “A” Dairy Assessment Act) to GS Chapter 106.

Sets forth the Article's purpose and defined terms. Authorizes the NC Dairy Producers Association (Association) to conduct a referendum on whether to levy an assessment, with every dairy producer eligible to vote. Defines dairy producer as a State resident who produces Grade “A” milk, as defined, for commercial sale and holds a Grade “A” milk permit from the Department (the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services). Sets ballot requirements for proposed assessments and caps the amount at five cents for each hundredweight of Grade "A" milk produced by a dairy producer. Provides the Association discretion to set the assessment at an amount lower than that approved with annual increases as specified. Requires the Association to determine the amount of the assessment, the time and place of the referendum, and referendum procedures. Requires voter eligibility disputes to be determined by the Association. Requires the Association to provide reasonable notice of a referendum. 

Sets limitations and procedures for assessment payment and collection. Prohibits collection unless more than half of the votes cast in the referendum are in favor of the assessment, whereby the Association must notify the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) of the assessment amount and effective date, and DACS must notify dairy producers. Provides for payment on each hundredweight of Grade "A" milk produced in the State and sold commercially by either (1) milk handlers and dairy cooperatives deducting the amount from the proceeds of sales and monthly remitting the collection to DACS or (2) dairy producers paying the assessment. Sets a 5% penalty on dairy producers for assessments of the previous year's sales unpaid by January 20, plus 1% of the unpaid assessment for each month after that date the assessment remains unpaid. Authorizes the Association to conduct inspections and audits, with dairy producers responsible for their cost if willful failure to remit assessments is revealed. Provides for the Association to bring a civil action against a dairy producer to collect unpaid assessments, penalties, and reasonable costs for an inspection or audit, with action costs, including attorneys' fees, recoverable if the Association is successful. 

Directs DACS to quarterly remit collections to the Association to be used to promote interests of the dairy industry, as specified. Provides a procedure for dairy producers to request a refund on grounds that no benefit from the assessment was received. 

Establishes a petition procedure for dairy producers to submit a petition to DACS that begins with a farmer first requesting a refund form from the Association. Requires the Association to provide any farmer with the form within one week of receiving the request and allows the farmer to submit the request on that form between December 15 and December 31.

Requires the Association to conduct a referendum within six months of the receipt of a petition to determine whether to continue the assessment. Provides for the assessment's expiration upon either (1) the majority of the votes cast in the referendum being against continuing the assessment or (2) the Association's failure to conduct a referendum within the required six-month period. Adds that if a majority of the votes cast are in favor of the assessment's continuation, then subsequent referendums are barred for three years.

Amends GS 106-559.1, GS 106-563.1, and GS 106-567.1 to specify that that these statutes refer to assessment referendums for milk products conducted pursuant to the provisions of existing Article 50, GS Chapter 106.

Amends GS 90A-47.4(b) (renewal fees for animal waste management system operators) as follows. Now imposes deadline for payment of annual renewal fee of December 31. Declares certificates not renewed by deadline to be invalid. Requires payment of the renewal fee and late fee equivalent to twice the annual renewal fee (was, renewal penalty of same amount) to renew the certificate. Requires payment of any penalties assessed since the certificate was last renewed along with completion of any accrued continuing education requirements. If a certificate has been invalid for more than 12 months, then requires the operator to make a passing score on examination for certification.