Boll weevil eradication officials are reminding cotton farmers that harvesting equipment must be cleaned before it can cross state lines or be moved between eradication zones in the Mid-South states.

That is especially true in states like Louisiana and Mississippi where eradication leaders say the boll weevil is finally on its way out after more than 100 years of eating away at farmers' pocketbooks.

“As we near statewide eradication it becomes increasingly important that equipment coming in from other areas be properly cleaned by high pressure air or water, or by fumigation before the equipment enters the state,” Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Bob Odom said.

“Once the equipment is clean, the state where the equipment is being moved from will issue a phytosanitary, or boll weevil free, certificate showing that it is clean.”

A certificate is not only required for equipment coming in from out of Louisiana, Odom said, but is also required for equipment being moved between the Northeast and Red River eradication zones within Louisiana. “Because we're at different stages of the eradication program in our two zones, a certificate must be issued on equipment moving between them,” Odom noted. “A certificate must be issued for each individual piece of equipment being transported.”

The certificate for intrastate movement of equipment is issued by LDAF after the equipment has been cleaned and inspected.

Odom said last year boll weevils were caught in traps beside two cotton pickers that were transported into Louisiana without being properly cleaned. The owner was fined by Louisiana for violating state boll weevil eradication regulations, and because the equipment was from Texas, which is under a pink bollworm quarantine, the owner was also fined by the USDA.

“We've had great success with the boll weevil program in both eradication zones, and we don't want to jeopardize the work we've accomplished with a careless error like someone bringing in contaminated equipment,” Odom said. “Although we don't like having to fine farmers and custom harvesters, we do penalize those caught in violation of boll weevil eradication regulations. Too much is at stake not to do it.”

Louisiana custom harvesters and producers who harvest cotton in other states must comply with all boll weevil regulations before returning to Louisiana. “If you've harvested your crop here and leave to harvest out of state, you have to have a certificate showing the equipment is clean before you come back to Louisiana,” Odom added. Farmers and owners of harvest equipment must have the required phytosanitary certificates available when department employees come by for inspections.

Anyone with questions about phytosanitary certificates or the Boll Weevil Eradication Program can call a local LDAF district office or a Boll Weevil Eradication Program Office.

In Missouri, program leaders are discussing how to approach the problem of keeping boll weevils out of their newly initiated eradication area. “There are some conversations going on about it and it is a concern. But no rules are in place right now,” said Dewey Wayne King, program manager for the Missouri Boll Weevil Eradication Program, when asked about regulations on the movement of cotton from non-eradicated to or through eradicated areas.