You can’t blame Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana for looking in every nook and cranny for additional money to firm up an underfunded state budget. But to make a grab for boll weevil eradication funding is pennywise and pound foolish.
The boll weevil funds, totaling $766,000, were caught up in a so-called fund sweep of more than $198 million to help pay for health care and other expenses.
Jindal has demonstrated on numerous occasions that he is a friend of agriculture. Perhaps he simply overlooked or didn’t fully comprehend the potential impact of diverting boll weevil money from its intended use — to run the weevil monitoring program this year.
Those familiar with Louisiana cotton industry sure do. Nobody wants to fight the weevil again. Or go through the expense of boll weevil eradication one more time. Both of which could very well happen if the monitoring program for the weevil isn’t adequately funded each and every year.
It also goes to show that the biggest risk of the boll weevil returning is our own fading memory of him.
Today, a whole new generation of cotton producers has never even seen the critter that so often enjoyed an afternoon buffet at the expense of a cotton top crop. Apparently, a few politicians are also fuzzy about it.
Thankfully, there are enough old timers who do recall the days when the weevil ruled the roost. He was a mess of a pest, a gigantic, expensive mess. You never beat the weevil in those days. You just tried to get out of the field before he ate your lunch.
While it’s true that the boll weevil has been eradicated, we can’t forget that he is still alive and well in parts of Mexico, his original home. He can easily hop a harvester moving between Mexico and the United States or hitch a ride on a northerly wind.
Throw in a momentary lapse of attention, like one that might occur with a poorly funded boll weevil program, and a handful of undetected weevils can start an assault on U.S. cotton all over again.
That’s why we have to diligently monitor for the pest. To make positively, absolutely sure that not a single weevil goes undetected. That’s what the $766,000 is for — to keep our foot on his grubby little proboscis.
“If you don’t monitor, it can be extremely bad,” Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said. “We saw what happened in South Carolina (in 1995) where a re-infestation cost over $1.3 million to control.
Hopefully, Jindal will see the light and allow the eradication funds to be set aside for its original purpose. Several bills before the state House and Senate propose to do that.
Louisiana’s cotton crop generates more $250 million a year and is a $billion-plus industry for the economy in central and north Louisiana. Let’s not put it peril for the want of $766,000.