The National Cotton Council today expressed concern that a proposal to move USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to the new Department of Homeland Security could result in reduced funding for programs critical to production agriculture.

In testimony before the House Agriculture Committee, James Dodson, a Robstown, TX, cotton producer, said transferring APHIS into a department devoted to terrorism might mean a lower priority for Boll Weevil Eradication and Pink Bollworm Eradication programs; oversight of bilateral agreements with other cotton-producing countries; risk assessment; and permitting of new biotechnology crops.

Dodson told the panel that APHIS has played a vital role coordinating the highly successful boll weevil eradication program, allocating critical federal cost share funds. He said if sufficient funding is available and APHIS remains in a leadership role, the NCC believes the weevil will be eradicated within the next six to 10 years. However, he said the NCC has serious concerns whether the new Department of Homeland Security would aggressively seek funding for the program's annual 30 percent federal cost share.

“Eradication increases yields; lowers production costs and sharply reduces insecticide usage thereby enhancing the environment,” said Dodson, who serves as chairman of NCC's Environmental Task Force. “Independent estimates show that for every $1 spent on boll weevil eradication, $12 is returned to the rural economy through increased activity.”

Dodson also told the Committee that APHIS is working with cotton producers to eradicate another costly and destructive pest in five western states — the pink bollworm. He said APHIS' role and international expertise is crucial to this effort because U.S. producers are working cooperatively with producers in adjacent northern Mexico to get rid of the pink bollworm.

APHIS also plays a vital role, Dodson testified, in facilitating exports of U.S. cotton and cotton products. Recently, the department has actively worked to eliminate redundant fumigation requirements for U.S. exports to Peru, Colombia and Pakistan thereby enhancing U.S. cotton's competitiveness in those markets by reducing costs and fumigant use.