The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has announced cotton grower assessment rates recently approved by the Tennessee Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation. The assessment funds monitoring and maintenance activities associated with the Boll Weevil Eradication Program.

Cotton growers statewide will be assessed $1.50 per acre, which represents a 70 percent reduction for West Tennessee cotton growers and a 25 percent reduction for Middle Tennessee cotton growers. For the first time, cotton growers in the two regions will pay the same rate.

“This is the second year the Boll Weevil Eradication Program has been fully funded by Tennessee cotton farmers,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Terry J. Oliver. “The reduction in the assessment rates points to the continued success of the program in achieving economic and environmental benefits for the cotton growing regions of the state.”

Cotton growers voted overwhelmingly last year to continue monitoring for boll weevils following completion of the program’s active phase in 2008. The program has been successful in contributing to a string of record cotton yields since its inception in the 1990s. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, cotton yields for Tennessee averaged 843 pounds per acre in 2009.

TDA Boll Weevil Eradication administrator Boyd Barker says favorable weather and improved varieties have contributed to record yields, but a major factor has been the eradication program. “The program exceeded early expectations and has not only contributed to a 200-plus pound per acre increase in average cotton yields, but also a 40 to 90 percent reduction in the use cotton insecticides — something that benefits everyone.”

Barker says cotton growers should follow certification requirements and report all cotton acreage to their local Farm Service Agency if they have not already done so. The deadline for payment of the 2010 program assessment without penalty is Nov. 15.

For more information about the Tennessee Boll Weevil Eradication Program, contact Barker at 615-837-5136 or Boyd.Barker@TN.gov.