June 30, 2014
The only amendment on the July 15 primary ballot could have major implications for Alabama’s cotton industry. Cotton farmers are asking residents to choose cotton and vote “yes” on Amendment 1. The provision would allow state cotton farmers to decide if their current voluntary checkoff should become automatic. The Alabama Farmers Federation and its State Cotton Committee support the amendment.
“The research and cotton policies funded by the Alabama cotton checkoff program have kept our family farm in business,” said Autauga County farmer Jimmy Sanford, who serves as chairman of the Alabama Cotton Commission.
The commission is a board of 11 cotton farmers who are unpaid volunteers responsible for disbursing checkoff funds used for cotton research, educational and promotional activities.
Cotton farmers created the checkoff in the ‘70s to help their industry rebound from losing market share to man-made fibers. Since then, Alabama farmers have paid a self-imposed fee per bale of cotton sold.
Checkoff money helped fund research for the boll weevil eradication program, which has increased yields and reduced dependence on pesticides. Research also has helped farmers reduce yield losses from pests and nematodes while protecting the soil and environment.
“All Alabama cotton farmers have benefitted from research funded by the cotton checkoff with increased yields and improved environmental practices,” said Federation Cotton Division Director Carla Hornady. “Through the farmers’ commitments to supporting this program, cotton has remained a viable crop in Alabama. The industry employs nearly 2,800 people and has a $290.1 million economic impact in our state.”
The checkoff currently has a refund policy, which only 7 percent of farmers request. However, those farmers still have access to and benefit from checkoff-funded research and promotion without paying into the program.
“This amendment is a fairness issue with us,” Sanford said. “We think it’s time for all of us cotton farmers to have a uniform stake in what needs to be done. And we’re asking the general public to allow us to have that uniform voice by voting ‘yes’ on this amendment. Voting in favor of this provision will help cotton compete nationally and globally in the fiber market.”
If the July 15 amendment passes, the commission would then be allowed to schedule a vote for cotton farmers to decide on the change to the checkoff program. For more about the “Choose Cotton” campaign, visit ChooseCotton.com.