Many people believe Irish potatoes are called "Irish" because they come from Ireland. Actually, Irish potatoes come from around the Andes regions of South America where they were originally grown by South American Indians. They became associated with the Irish because, around 1845, the Irish depended upon potatoes so much for food that when late blight resulted in widespread crop failures in the country, it led to the Great Irish Famine.
Let it be said, then, the Irish potato has an honored heritage in European and American cultures. Irish potatoes are an exceedingly important cash crop, in North Carolina, as well.
Getting the story of potatoes told -- the history, the economics, the nutrition, the production challenges and so on --so that we all fully appreciate the crop, is part of the job of the N.C. Potato Association. During March, potato growers in a nine-county area in the northeastern part of North Carolina, the area where potatoes in the Tarheel State are produced commercially, will have the opportunity to vote on the renewal of an assessment program that supports promotional and research work of the N.C. Potato Association.
Official ballots will be mailed out on March 15 to all potato growers who are eligible to vote. The potato growers in Beaufort, Camden, Carteret, Currituck, Hyde, Pamplico, Pasquotank, Tyrrell and Washington counties will have the opportunity to vote on whether to approve a new six-year assessment program. It must be approved by two-thirds of those voting in order to continue the program.
Under the Enabling Act legislation passed by the N.C. General Assembly, a referendum on the assessment program must be held every three to six years. Potato growers currently pay 1 cent per 100 weight of potatoes sold to help support research and promotion. This vote is to continue the same 1-cent assessment of potatoes sold.
"The effective period of the assessment would be from 2012 through 2017," says Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "I support the passage of this referendum because promotion and research are absolutely necessary to continue market development for our growers."
Funds are collected by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and turned over to the N.C. Potato Association's Board of Directors. The monies are then administered by the Potato Board, which is composed of growers representing counties in the assessment program area.
Growers should mail the ballots to the Northeast Marketing Center at P.O. Box 2066, Elizabeth City, NC 27906. They must be received by March 28, 2012.
For more information, contact Tommy Fleetwood at the NCDA&CS Northeast Marketing Center at 252-331-4773.