In the state’s Northeast Zone, 2,152 producers and landowners voted to begin the maintenance phase of the eradication program and about 300 voted against it, said Bob Odom, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, In the Red River Zone, 713 voted yes and 12 voted against the program.

Originally, the maintenance program was slated to cost growers $10 per acre per year, but supplemental state programs reduced the overall cost to $6 per acre, according to Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry personnel.

“The cotton farmers have spoken, and we will continue the eradication program by moving into the maintenance phase in both zones,” said Odom. Louisiana began its Boll Weevil Eradication Program in 1997.

Farmers in the Red River Zone, which extends from the Arkansas border in northwest Louisiana to central Louisiana, approved the maintenance program in 2001, Odom said, but were asked to vote again this year so the program for both regions could be synchronized. Red River Valley growers began the program first.

Odom said farmers in both regions will enter an eradication maintenance program focused on trapping boll weevils and then spraying infected fields until the state is declared “weevil free.”

Officials with the Southeastern Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, which oversees maintenance programs in the Southeast, said they captured only one boll weevil in the 11-state area in 2003.

Farmers in the north Delta of Mississippi currently are voting in a referendum for a maintenance program in Leflore, Sunflower, West Tallahatchie, Quitman and Tunica Counties. Costs for the program would be slightly higher in the region because of the lack of state funding for the program.

The referendum calls for assessments of no more than $12 per acre, but program managers have said they anticipate the cost will be no more than $8 to $10 per acre the first two year and $6 to $8 per acre per year in the following.

All of the other regions of the state have approved a maintenance program.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com