If they approve, cotton growers will extend the program for a 10-year period at a maximum assessment of $12 per acre per year. BWEP officials say they expect actual costs will be significantly lower than that amount.

“Although assessments are projected to be less than $12, the Mississippi Boll Weevil Eradication Law dictates that all regions have to vote on identical referenda,” said Farrell Boyd, Mississippi BWEP director. “If operation costs remain in the projected range, it is hoped assessments will be in the $8-$10 range for the next two years and then drop back to the $6-$8 range.”

2003 marks the final year of the five-year eradication program for Regions 1A and 1B. Region 1A includes Leflore, Quitman, Sunflower, west Tallahatchie and Tunica Counties. Region 1B includes Bolivar, Coahoma and Washington Counties.

Since the program began with fall diapause spraying in August of 1999, the program has registered a 96.7-percent reduction in boll weevils trapped per acre, according to BWEP figures.

In 2002, an average of 92.7 percent of the fields in each region were weevil-free each week with 55.2 percent totally weevil-free all season, Boyd said. Visually detectable levels of weevils were virtually non-existent.

“The ‘Cotton Insect Loss Estimate Report’ attributes zero percent yield loss of cotton to the boll weevil in 2001 and 2002,” he said. “Eradication is very close in all areas of the state, with the majority of Region 4 and the southern portion of Region 3 being completely weevil free in 2002.”

Passage of the maintenance program referenda will provide continuity of program efforts and allow eradication to be finalized and provide surveillance and protection to prevent re-infestation. With the other three eradication regions having maintenance programs in operation, passage in Regions 1A and 1B will allow the entire state to continue the maintenance phase.

“At the end of 2003, cotton growers in these areas will have $106 per acre invested in boll weevil eradication,” said Boyd. “With an investment of this amount it is essential to complete the job and protect our investment.”

Referendum ballots will be mailed to all 2002 cotton growers in Regions 1A and 1B on May 30 and must be postmarked or returned to the county Farm Service Agency office by 4:30 p.m., June 13. County FSA employees will count the ballots on June 20.

If you have questions about the eradication program or the referendum, contact your local boll weevil eradication office or the Mississippi Program Manager at 601 922 3136.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com