The Arkansas boll weevil eradication quarantine plan has been put on hold for a few months. At a Sept. 19 meeting in Little Rock, the Arkansas State Plant Board voted unanimously to send proposed quarantine plans and regulations back to staff for additional work.
"At the meeting, we pulled the quarantine down because of so many good, reasonable comments on how the plan would affect areas actively involved in eradication. We felt we needed to pull it down and work on the language a little more — definitions needed clarification, we need to address stalk destruction requirements in the quarantine and several other things," says Daryl Little, Arkansas Plant Board director.
The board, says Little, didn't feel as though the matter was urgent enough to move immediately.
"We're working on it some more and we'll have a revised plan sometime this winter. Hopefully, we'll have something before the end of this year, although it may stretch a bit longer."
Most quarantines target a pest area and prohibit articles from moving outside it. The proposed Arkansas quarantine works differently. The triggers for the quarantine don't kick in until there are areas in the state where weevils have been eradicated.
"We currently have that situation in the area around Texarkana. We want the quarantine to have as little effect as possible on industry and still protect the areas where weevils have been eradicated. So when eradication is achieved, the quarantine kicks in and prohibits moving regulated articles into the area that is weevil-free," said Little in an earlier interview with Delta Farm Press.
What were some of the sticking points brought up at the Sept. 19 meeting?
"The way the quarantine was worded, you'd have an area, for example, like Forrest City with an active eradication program. That area has very low weevil counts but the pest isn't eradicated. Still, the farmers in the area would fall under the same restrictions as a producer or gin in Blytheville where weevil populations are extremely high."
Little says the Plant Board needs to look at risks a bit more closely and how proposed regulatory language defines areas that would be under quarantine.
"It would be an undo hardship to place both (Forrest City and Blytheville) into the same boat. The risks are certainly different between the two and they shouldn't be treated the same. We want to more closely define areas that require certification in movement of equipment. It's just a matter of fine-tuning the regulations to make sure they're equitable and protective but not overly burdensome for low-risk areas."
What was the reaction of farmers from the southwest part of the state? Were they okay with tabling the quarantine for a while?
"Right now, the only area that we have real concern about is southwest Arkansas. But farmers there seem to be more concerned with weevils blowing in from Texas than they are with quarantine issues."
There is around 200,000 acres of cotton 30 to 40 miles west of southwest Arkansas cotton, says Little. Migrating weevils from that acreage is a key worry for farmers in the area — certainly more than hitchhiking weevils.
Additionally, at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26, the Arkansas Eradication Foundation is meeting at the Little Rock headquarters of the Arkansas Plant Board to look into entering discussions with neighboring eradication efforts.
"We want to see if there's an possibility of working with those overseeing eradication in Mississippi, Tennessee and Missouri. We're checking into the possibility of pooling resources and potentially getting another referendum in Mississippi County working," says Little.
Mississippi County, located in northeast Arkansas, has tremendous cotton acreage but has rejected eradication efforts in the past.
"Our neighbors in these three states — as is Arkansas -- are spending millions of dollars just maintaining a buffer around Mississippi County. We need for the program to move on," says Little.