Cotton farmers have until Aug. 30 to sign up at their county Farm Service Agency offices to request a referendum on continuing two key features of their national research and promotion program.

The program, developed under the Cotton Research and Promotion Act, is a self-help marketing initiative, funded with assessments collected from cotton producers and importers. It is designed to strengthen cotton's competitive market position and to expand markets and uses for cotton.

In 1991, USDA instituted non-refundable assessments on all U.S. upland cotton and the authority to collect assessments on imported cotton and cotton imported textiles as amendments to the Cotton Research and Promotion Order. The order implements the 1966 Cotton Research and Promotion Act.

As required by the act, USDA reviewed the program to determine whether a referendum on continuing the two amendments was needed. Last January, USDA issued a decision that a referendum was unnecessary. However, the act requires such a decision be followed with an opportunity for producers and importers to request a referendum.

To move to a referendum, the numerical equivalent of 10 percent of those voting in the last referendum would have to request a referendum, and no more than 20 percent of all of the requests could come from one state or from importers. The USDA held the last referendum in 1991.

Producers desiring a referendum would register at their local Farm Service Agency offices. For additional information, contact Whitney Rick, Agricultural Marketing Service, Cotton Program, telephone (202) 720-2259, e-mail mailto: whitney.rick@usda.gov..

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