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Arkansas quarantine hearing scheduled

The Arkansas Plant Board will hold a public hearing Sept. 19 on a proposed quarantine program for areas of the state that have completed boll weevil eradication.

The plan, which has been out for public comment for some time, is aimed at protecting areas that have eliminated the weevil from becoming re-infested by equipment coming from non-eradicated areas.

“To the untrained eye, the plan seems a bit convoluted. It almost works backwards from the way most conventional quarantines operate,” says Arkansas Plant Board head Daryl Little. Most quarantines target a pest area and prohibit articles from moving outside it. The way the proposed Arkansas quarantine works is different. The triggers for the quarantine don't kick in until there are areas in the state where weevils have been eradicated.

“We currently have that situation in the area around Texarkana,” says Little. “We want the quarantine to have as little effect as possible on industry and still protect the areas where weevils have been eradicated. So when eradication is achieved, the quarantine kicks in and prohibits moving regulated articles into the area that is weevil-free.”

While suspecting there is opposition to the quarantine plan, Little says he's yet to receive any negative written comments or phone calls.

“Most of the calls I've gotten are from producers in areas with active eradication. They want the program to be even more restrictive and stringent than what's been proposed. Boll weevils are opportunists and hitchhikers and must be controlled.”

Eradication officials say that with some exceptions, the boll weevil eradication effort in Arkansas is going well. While some other states are seeing counts rising a bit, Arkansas' counts are, for the most part, going down.

“We've seen counts rising in the northeast part of the state — Mississippi County and eastern Craighead County — where the eradication program hasn't been voted in,” says Doug Ladner, Arkansas eradication program director.

Counts are also up around the Memphis no-fly zone related to the terrorist attacks last Sept. 11. “At that time, we were prevented from flying around Memphis for about six weeks. Areas around West Memphis, Marion and that area were obviously affected by missing four or five applications.”

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