Boll weevil funds under attack

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 28, 2008

VIDALIA — When new Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain announced last week the program dedicated to boll weevil eradication was lacking funds, farmers paid attention.

The program, which sprays pesticide in boll weevil havens, only costs farmers $14 an acre. The state picks up the rest of the tab.

The weevil feeds on cotton buds and flowers, and is considered the most destructive cotton pest.

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“When I used to set traps out to catch boll weevils, I would pick up the trap and there would be 2,000 to 3,000 of them in a trap,” Concordia Parish Extension Agent Glen Daniels said. “After the eradication program started, they’re hard to find. It is a vital program for farmers.”

If the program ended, all of the money that had been put into eradication would have been effectively lost, Daniels said.

“As it is right now, we’re just at a maintenance stage,” he said. “Instead of having to find all of them (weevils), we just have to beat a few back.”

But farmers don’t need to worry that the program is going to end this year, Department of Agriculture and Forestry Communications Director Ashley Rodrigue said.

“It is going to continue,” Rodrigue said. “Our fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30, so when the boll weevil is active kind of crosses the fiscal year. There is no discussion about canceling the program this year.”

Finding funds for the program is the major concern for the department of agriculture, Rodrigue said, but even though the other funds were tied up it will still be partially funded through the $14 per acre assessment farmers pay into it.

The program has been effective in helping increase cotton yields even though less acreage was planted last year by reducing the amount of cotton consumed by the pest, Daniels said.

And that, Rodrigue, is why the Department of Agriculture is tightening its belt to streamline the process of finding funds for the program.

“We had record setting yields in cotton this year and a lot of that can be attributed to the boll weevil eradication program,” she said.