The third of four informational meetings on a new boll weevil eradication proposal was held at the Manila Community Center on Wednesday morning. Other meetings were held at the Northeast Arkansas Research and Extension Center at Keiser, Mississippi County Community College Governor's Hall in Blytheville and Monette Buffalo Island Central Elementary cafeteria on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Jim Brumley, executive director of the Southeastern Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, Inc., in Montgomery, Ala., and Darryl Little, executive director of Arkansas State Plant Board, spoke to the group of growers and landowners. Also present were Rick Stewart of the Farm Service Agency, Gus Lorenz, entomologist with the Cooperative Extension Service, and Mark Bryles, Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation Board member.
Bryles commented that they have been "a little disappointed" in the low attendance at the meetings.
Boll weevil eradication in the Northeast Zone, made up of Mississippi County and Eastern Craighead County, has been voted down three times.
Ballots were mailed on Wednesday. Voting will run through Dec. 14. The votes will be counted Dec. 23.
David Wildy, of Leachville, cotton grower and chairman of the Mississippi County eradication effort, expressed his appreciation to everyone for coming.
"Changes have been made in the boll weevil eradication proposal. Splitting up into zones may have been a mistake," Wildy said. "We hope to bring the area back together. I am going to support it. Eradication is here to stay and we are going to have to deal with it. I know that it has been voted down three times but they want to help us.
"The eradication program is about 30 years old. There are 15 million acres in the boll weevil eradication program. Of that acreage, 600,000 acres are not in the program and 300,000 of those acres are us (the Northeast Delta Zone). We can't stick our heads in the sand. The Northeast Delta Region will be in the program one way or another. I feel if we fail this referendum, it will cost us more down the road. There will be problems if we pass it or not."
"The more I talk to Jim (Brumley) I realize he shoots straight. He was a cotton grower from 1967 to 1995, a ginner from 1970-1975, a chemical representative from the mid 70's to 80's and was a private cotton consultant. He has been executive director of the Southeastern Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, Inc. since 1995," Wildy said.
Brumley said the new proposal across the zone is $8 an acre over seven years and a maximum of $3 an acre maintenance fee after the initial seven years. The proposal is good if the referendum passes, he said.
Brumley said that no one was more against boll weevil eradication than he was when it was first proposed to him in 1990 at $35 an acre over five years. In 1994 it got started at $20 an acre and it was the best thing that ever happened, he said.
"In the Southeast organization we are responsible for Missouri and Southwest Tennessee," he said.
He explained there is $100 million in those two regions. The investment is from federal, state and growers.
"Some of those funds we are ready to bring here. I have a $100 million project started and it can't be competed without you," Brumley said.
He said he realized there are not a lot of boll weevils in this region on some farms, but there are enough here to reinfest the world.
"I'm not here to sell you on boll weevil eradication. No need to talk quarantine. I've never supported that much.
"The Southeast organization has six million acres. We have only six individual cotton fields, from 25 to 110 acres, on which we have found reproductive boll weevils. The problems get better every year," Brumley said.
He went on to say there are two and a half million acres in the program in Mississippi, West Tennesee and the Bootheel of Missouri.
"I was invited to come to Blytheville for a round table discussion. We started working on possible joint effort between us and Northeast Arkansas. That is how we got here today. It is a benefit to us to be involved in this program. There have never been negative remarks about how the Arkansas program has been run," he said.
He said communication was an important part of the process. He went on to stress the importance of communication between the producer, operator, board, and department of agriculture.
"If you pass the referendum and don't take an active role, communication will be a real chore," he said.
Suggestions on good communications included talking together. He said to have the Arkansas Board to appoint one member to sit on the Southeast Board, have a regulatory person on the board, a third seat for an active cotton producer, and one technical advisor. An oversight committee can be selected with as many people as needed giving every cotton grower someone to contact, with conference calls on a regular basis.
He went on to say that field unit supervisors look over 15,000 to 18,000 acres. The job pays approximately $25,000 a year with a furnished truck.
"We will need about 18-20 people here. We hope to hire locally. That person becomes our contact. It is most important that the community knows what is going on at all times," Brumley said.
He also pointed out that if the referendum passes, there would be a need for an office in the area and when it is possible, local aerial applicators are used to spray the Malathion. He explained the process of the boll weevil eradication program commenting that there is not a lot of automatic spraying after the first year.
"We are far from a perfect organization. We will always have problems with 400 full time employees in nine states and 2,100 to 2,200 part-time employees. You will have to get used to us riding around your cotton fields putting up traps," he said.
Local farmer Drew Blankenship commented, "When you say eradication that means to annihilate."
"With the cotton in Mexico, that can't be done. It will cost us $5,600 over 100 acres. You said earlier on 3 million acres you still have a few fields that have boll weevils. What if we do this and come back 20 years down the road and boll weevils are still here?"
Brumley said that was a good question and suggested to go south of the border and get those guys in the eradication program.
"As long as there is a boll weevil that can get to us by a vehicle, we will always have that threat and have to have some type of maintenance program," he said.
Bryles commented there is some form of boll weevil eradication in parts of Mexico in process now.
Blankenship also asked, "If the eradication program doesn't get voted in now, where will it go?"
Brumley said he had brought to the table all he could.
"I can't go back to the Southeast and ask for more money. We have to put in $6 million over two years and use of any excess government equipment we have in Northeast Arkansas," Brumley said.
Little said the state plant board is working on a document for the landowners and growers that reach a cost/share agreement. If an agreement is made, the plant board will bill landowners for their part.
" Brumley is willing to bring $6 million to the table, Arkansas has pledged $3.5 million and if it does not pass we stand to lose that ($30 an acre). This might not be economical on what is spent now but long term it could help," Wildy said.
Manila cotton producer Allen Donner said quarantine has to be a part of this.
Little said when he became plant board director he had serious concerns with the proposed quarantine.
"The bottom line is I did not feel the quarantine as proposed was biologically sound. It may be seven or eight years down the road when we need to. Based on discussions with technical people, I asked the board to pull the quarantine down and I have not touched it in several weeks."
Brumley said there is a federal quarantine being worked on that should be in place by 2005.
"That quarantine has some teeth in it. I think this will take place before the state can get one in place," Brumley said.
Little agreed they did not want to implement a quarantine when there was a federal quarantine in process.
Brumley pointed out that he did not want to be a part of any quarantine toward Northeast Arkansas.
"I hope to sit down and work on a quarantine that fits the entire cotton belt," he said.