By more than 75 percent of 2,161 ballots

Northern High Plains approves eradication zone COTTON FARMERS and landowners in the Northern High Plains have hammered another nail in the boll weevil's coffin.

More than 75 percent of those voting in an October referendum favored establishing a Boll Weevil Eradication Zone in Briscoe, Floyd, Hale and Swisher.

To pass, two thirds of those voting had to approve the measure, or those voting in favor had to represent more than 50 percent of the area's acreage.

Also, more than 72 percent of the ballots, which were tabulated Oct. 11 by Texas Department of Agriculture officials, supported a proposed annual assessment not to exceed $12 per acre for irrigated and $6 per acre for dryland cotton. Voters elected Hale County producer Weldon Melton to the Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, Inc. board of directors.

Some 2,161 valid ballots were returned from 3,140 issued to eligible cotton producers.

"Producers in the Northern High Plains have shown that they want an eradication program," said Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs. "We look forward to working with them and the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation in eliminating this costly pest in Texas."

"This was a big vote for the program," said Lindy Patton, executive director, Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, Inc. "A lot of credit goes to the steering committee and producers in the area. They did a good job."

Patton said Northern High Plains cotton growers are progressive producers who would not be content to see boll weevils limit production.

"They've seen what the boll weevil can do and they would not let that happen to them," Patton said.

The addition of The Northern High Plains Eradication Zone plus the Southern Blacklands Zone added earlier this year brings to 10 the number of active zones in the state.

The Northern High Plains Boll Weevil Eradication Zone consists of approximately 650,000 acres. Southern Blacklands adds another 120,000.

These additions bring total program acreage to more than 4.7 million, Patton said. "And we will have another referendum for the Southern High Plains/Caprock Zone in November. If that passes, we will have 6 million acres in the program. This is the largest program of its kind in the world."

The Southern Rolling Plains Eradication Zone was recently declared functionally eradicated and will move into a maintenance phase in 2001.

Newly established zones will begin with diapause treatments in the fall of 2001.

"We still have a lot to do," Patton said. "Before we begin the program we have to secure financing and get all the elements in place. We will do all we can to make the program work for Texas cotton farmers."

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