Cotton producers to vote in boll weevil referendum


State Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher announced a referendum of cotton growers on continuing an assessment to fund the Boll Weevil Eradication Program, or BWEP.

Boll weevil on cotton boll

Tennessee cotton producers will be able to vote from March 11-22 at local USDA Farm Service Agency offices.

State law which governs the Boll Weevil Eradication Program provides that a referendum authorizing assessments be held at least every 10 years.

“I’m pleased that our cotton producers have this opportunity to have a voice in the future of this program and their business,” Hatcher said. “It’s important that cotton growers give serious consideration to this question and participate in the referendum. The department is here to help facilitate the voting process.”

According to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, the BWEP was first implemented in the state in 1994. It allowed cotton producers to fund efforts in conjunction with other cotton-producing states to spray, trap, and conduct ongoing surveillance for controlling boll weevils.

Tennessee was officially eradicated of the boll weevil in 2009.

The current focus of the program is to monitor for and prevent the boll weevil’s reintroduction to the state. Since the beginning of the program, cotton insecticide use has been reduced 40 to 90 percent and cotton yields have significantly increased, the department said.

Assessments on Tennessee cotton producers fully fund the BWEP at this time. The upcoming ballot caps the rate at $5 per acre, as did the referendum in 2009. However, the assessment rate has not exceeded $1.50 per acre since 2010.

Votes will be counted on March 27 at 9 a.m. at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson.