Tennessee Cotton Producers Vote to Support Boll Weevil Program

Thursday, April 04, 2019 | 08:20am

NASHVILLE – A program that monitors for and prevents a destructive pest from being reintroduced to Tennessee cotton fields has been authorized to remain in operation.

Tennessee cotton producers voted in a statewide referendum to continue an assessment to fund the Boll Weevil Eradication Program (BWEP).

A two-thirds majority vote from Tennessee cotton farmers was required for the BWEP to remain in operation. Of the producers who cast ballots at local USDA Farm Service Agency offices, 98.2% supported the measure. Of 326 total votes, 320 were in favor of continuing the program.

Tennessee Code Annotated 43-6-425, which governs the Boll Weevil Eradication Program, provides that a referendum authorizing assessments be held at least every 10 years. The voting result authorizes the operation of the BWEP through 2028.

The BWEP was first implemented in Tennessee in 1994. The program allowed cotton producers to fund efforts in conjunction with other cotton-producing states to spray, trap, and conduct ongoing surveillance for controlling boll weevils. Tennessee was officially eradicated of the boll weevil in 2009.

The current focus of the program is to monitor for and prevent the boll weevil’s reintroduction to the state. Since the beginning of the program, cotton insecticide use has been reduced 40 to 90 percent and cotton yields have significantly increased.

Tennessee ranks ninth among states for cotton acreage in the U.S. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Tennessee farmers harvested approximately 340,000 acres of cotton in 2017, generating more than $234 million.