Cotton growers in the state’s two hill Regions overwhelmingly voted in favor of continuing the effort to eradicate the boll weevil from their cotton fields, by a margin of 73 percent and 75 percent in Regions 3 and 4, respectively.
According to Jeannine Smith, executive director of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corp., 63 percent of all eligible ballots were returned in Region 3 and cotton growers cast 62 percent of the eligible ballots in Region 4.
In order for the referendum to be valid, at least 50 percent of all eligible cotton growers and landowners in each Region must vote for or against the program. In addition, of the total ballots cast in the referendum, a two-thirds majority is required for the measure to pass.
Growers in the two Regions provided the necessary majority and more. In Region 3, producers approved the 10-year eradication maintenance program by a vote of 996 to 357. In Region 4, 212 cotton growers voted in favor of the program and 63 voted against the eradication effort. In addition, 13 Region 3 ballots and eight Region 4 ballots were ruled invalid.
“I’m elated. Not only did we have a solid majority voting for the program, but in nine areas 100 percent of growers voted for the program,” says Kenneth Hood, chairman of the Boll Weevil Eradication Management Corp.
Those counties or areas where 100 percent of the eligible growers voted to continue the eradication effort include: Adams, Benton, Covington, Lafayette and Lawrence counties in Region 3, and Alcorn/Tishomingo, Forrest/Perry, Prentiss and Tippah counties in Region 4.
Hood says, “I am very happy they decided to stay in the program because we’ve come too far, and we’ve got too much invested, to turn back now. This means the program is running well enough that the farmers in these two regions voted it in again.”
Recently approved state legislation authorized a change in the eradication effort’s maintenance program from a period of five years to a period of ten years. State legislators also amended the boll weevil law to allow for a maximum annual grower assessment of $12 per acre, instead of the previously anticipated $5 per acre fee. However, if additional government funding is secured for the program, the grower assessment could potentially be lowered from the $12 ceiling set by law, program officials say.
Region 3 in the Mississippi eradication program includes the following counties: Adams, Attala, Benton, Calhoun, Carroll, Choctaw, Claiborne, Jefferson, Copiah, Covington, Desoto, Grenada, Hinds, Holmes, Lafayette, Lawrence, Leake, Madison, Marshall, Montgomery, Newton, Panola, Rankin, Scott, part of Tallahatchie, Tate, Warren, Webster, Yalobusha and Yazoo.
Counties included in Region 4 include: Alcorn, Tishomingo, Chickasaw, Clay, Forrest, Perry, George, Jackson, Greene, Itawamba, Lee, Lowndes, Monroe, Noxubee, Okitbbeha, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Tippah, Union and Winston.
Ballots for the eradication referendum were mailed to growers June 15 and all votes cast were tallied June 21.