I am a bit reluctant to tell anyone how to vote. Indeed, I’m hesitant to tell anyone to do anything.

There’s good reason for that. Mainly, no one pays the slightest bit of attention to anything I tell him or her to do. It was that way with my children. It’s that way with my wife. Even the new kittens we got from the humane shelter to replace one that died of old age without ever attending to a thing I said find it way too easy to ignore my admonitions to get off the table or cease and desist gnawing on my wife’s shoes.

Seems like they would express at least some appreciation for me saving them from euthanasia. Oh well. Like the late Rodney Dangerfield, “I don’t get no respect.” Of course, I don’t deserve much.

So imploring someone to vote a certain way seems a waste of time, energy and good will. So, I don’t. Usually.

But Texas farmers have a vote coming up that’s too important to ignore. Not the one that decides who gets to be (or has to be) president of the United States for the next four years. And not several campaigns around the state that will decide who will represent certain districts in the next Congress. I have some opinions about those races but will not bother you with them. I prefer not to streak through that political minefield. I’d kinda like to keep my toes. So, you’re on your own on that score.

But let me recommend an affirmative vote for farmers about to participate in referendums (Or is it referenda? Or does anyone really care?) to decide on activating boll weevil eradication efforts in the last two Texas areas that do not have active zones.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley and the Northern Blacklands have recently completed a series of educational meetings explaining how the program will work, if voted in. Voting is currently underway in the Valley and is planned for early next year in the Northern Blacklands.

It makes good sense to vote yes, and I encourage farmers to do so. If anyone wonders at the economic justification for spending money to eradicate what has arguably been the worst scourge of cotton farmers for much of the last century, get in touch with farmers in adjacent districts. Or check with folks in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina or Mississippi. Chances are better than good that farmers who have been in an active eradication zone for more than a year or two can tell you how much more cotton they’re making since they don’t have to contribute to the health and well being of the boll weevil.

I remember back in 1976, or maybe 1977, as a green (ignorant) Extension editor at Clemson University in South Carolina, working with one of our integrated pest management specialists on a story about a pilot program just beginning in the Northeast corner of North Carolina and the Southwest corner of Virginia that would begin the process of eliminating the boll weevil as an economic threat to U.S. cotton.

By the time that program had gotten off the ground I had left the Extension and was working for Southeast Farm Press in Georgia when BWEP started. Georgia was then about out of the cotton business, acreage down to about 350,000.

Once eradication got a hold and the weevil population began to subside, Georgia growers rediscovered cotton. Production costs declined considerably as they eliminated as many as 10 or more insecticide applications a year. And they made more cotton. Similar results occurred in Virginia, the Carolinas and westward into Alabama, Florida and through the Belt.

In every state, opposition and misunderstanding, along with some mistakes and some bad luck (heavy populations of other pests in initial years for eradication, for instance) delayed the program. Many zones voted several times before adopting eradication. But it has accomplished its goals. In most of the Cotton Belt, the boll weevil no longer represents a threat to cotton production. Farmers are making a top crop of lint they once assumed would be eaten by boll weevils.

A bit of work remains to complete the chore and farmers in the Valley and the Northern Blacklands can take a huge step toward finishing a job that’s been ongoing for nearly 30 years. Recent initiation of a similar program in northern Mexico makes success even more likely. Eradication makes good sense for Texas cotton growers. I urge you to vote for it.