Not later than 30 months after the date on which the collection of assessments begins under the order pursuant to section 6204(d) of this title, the Secretary shall conduct a referendum among producers, producer-handlers, and importers who—
(1) are not exempt from assessment under section 6204(d)(5) of this title; and
(2) produced or imported limes during a representative period as determined by the Secretary.
(b) Purpose of referendum
The referendum referred to in subsection (a) is for the purpose of determining whether the issuance of the order is approved or favored by not less than a majority of the producers, producer-handlers, and importers voting in the referendum. The order shall continue in effect only with such a majority.
The ballots and other information or reports that reveal, or tend to reveal, the vote of any person under this section, or section 6210 of this title, shall be held strictly confidential and shall not be disclosed.
(d) Refund of assessments from escrow account (1) In general
A portion of the assessments collected from producers, producer-handlers, and importers prior to announcement of the results of the referendum provided for in this section shall be held in an escrow account until the results of the referendum are published by the Secretary. The amount in the escrow account shall be equal to the product obtained by multiplying the total amount of assessments collected during such period by 10 percent.
(2) Approval of order
If the order is approved by a majority of the producers, producer-handlers, and importers voting in the initial referendum under subsection (a), the funds in the escrow account shall be released to be used for the purposes of this chapter.
(3) Disapproval of order (A) Proration
(i) the amount in the escrow account required by paragraph (1) is not sufficient to refund the total amount of assessments demanded by producers, producer-handlers, or importers; and
(ii) the plan is not approved pursuant to the referendum conducted under subsection (a);
the Board shall prorate the amount of such refunds among all eligible producers, producer-handlers, or importers who demand such refund.
(B) Right to refund
A producer, producer-handler, or importer shall be eligible to receive a refund—
(i) if demand is made personally, in accordance with regulations and on a form and within a time period prescribed by the Board, but in no event less than 90 days after the date of publication of the results of the referendum; and
(ii) on submission of proof satisfactory to the Board that the person paid the assessment for which refund is sought and did not collect the assessment from another person.
(C) Surplus funds
Any funds not refunded under this paragraph shall be released to be used to carry out this chapter.
AMENDMENTS 1993—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 103–194 substituted "Not later than 30 months after the date on which the collection of assessments begins under the order pursuant to section 6204(d) of this title," for "Not later than 2 years after the date on which the Secretary first issues an order under section 6203(a),".
7 U.S.C. § 6209 (2018)