LUBBOCK, Texas - Cotton farmers and landowners with cotton production in the proposed St. Lawrence Boll Weevil Eradication Zone have until Friday to get their votes in the mail to Texas Department of Agriculture.

Farmers and landowners are participating in a referendum that will determine whether to establish a boll weevil eradication program in the four counties of the St. Lawrence Boll Weevil Eradication Zone. Completed ballots must be postmarked on or before April 16 to be counted.

The ballots will be held under lock and key by the Texas Department of Agriculture in Austin until they are canvassed under strict State regulations on April 23. As of April 14, 202 envelopes had been returned of the 497 ballots mailed out April 1.

Eligible voters in the referendum will decide if an eradication program should be established in the zone and whether to set a maximum annual assessment of $6 per land acre of irrigated cotton and $2 per land acre of dryland cotton.

Voters will also elect a board member from the St. Lawrence Boll Weevil Zone to serve on the statewide board of directors for the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, Inc. Carey Niehues of Glasscock County appears on the ballot as a board nominee. Niehues is a cotton producer who has farmed in Glasscock County for 24 years.

The St. Lawrence Boll Weevil Eradication Zone consists of approximately 157,000 acres of cotton in the area of Midland County south of a line 15 miles south of Interstate 20 running from the Ector County line east to the Glasscock County line; Glasscock, Reagan and Upton counties.

Roger Haldenby is a writer for Plains Cotton Growers Inc.

e-mail: haldenby@plainscotton.org