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NE Arkansas eradication vote fails -- again

According to Doug Ladner, director of the Arkansas boll weevil eradication effort, the total counts from both counties showed 65 percent for eradication and 35 percent against.

“To get the thing passed, we need 66.7 percent. To miss it by only a percent-and-a-half is disappointing. Again, it was so close,” says Ladner.

For the third referendum held on the issue, there were 884 votes with 575 for and 309 against. In Mississippi County, the votes were 68 percent for and 32 percent against. In eastern Craighead County, the votes showed 59 percent for eradication and 41 percent against.

Those numbers show eastern Craighead County provided the referendum’s killing stroke.

With those vote totals, and with similar tactics having been utilized in the Mississippi delta and other places, will there be a move to place Mississippi County in the program and leave Craighead County alone?

“That is a good question and is something I’m sure will at least be considered. Because of the terrain, it would be difficult to ‘draw’ a line to separate the two counties in a manageable way. But I’m sure the (Arkansas eradication) board will take action. Right now, it’s just unclear what that action will be,” says Ladner.

“I honestly haven’t a clue where other (eradication leaders) are leaning on this. After this count, I think everyone involved is just looking forward to the Christmas holidays and leaving this alone for a few days. But there’s still trouble with buffer zones up there,” says Daryl Little, director of the Arkansas Plant Board. “Everyone is talking about a quarantine. But my concern isn’t so much with the quarantine as it is with natural migration of these pests.”

Little says the next Arkansas boll weevil foundation meeting will be on Dec. 30. “I think this could be an interesting meeting. Everything is up in the air again, and I hope there are some good ideas put forth.”

Jim Brumley, head of the Southeast Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation (which proposed to run an eradication program in the two counties), says despite the vote totals, he plans on a merry Christmas. He also says the close results aren’t surprising.

“The vote being this close was right in line with what I was hearing. There was no way to predict which way this would come down. One day I’d hear it was going to pass, the next day there was no way. It’s been that way for the past few weeks and I never had any confidence either way.”

Brumley also says he’s never looked at carving Mississippi County away from eastern Craighead County.

“That’s possible but the first thing to consider – and I haven’t even peeked at these numbers – is how many acres of cotton are in a 15-mile wide stretch down through Mississippi County’s west side. The border that butts up against Craighead County has to be looked at closely because we can’t trade for a buffer zone that’s bigger than the one we’ve got now. You can’t run a cheap program when there are buffer zones to contend with.”

But right now, Brumley isn’t worrying about it.

“I’m not doing anything else until after the holidays. I’ll be in a tree stand in an hour from now and everything else is getting shelved. But I’ll tell you this: it’s safe to say that everything is on the table. And it’s also safe to say that I’m very open-minded to the situation in those counties. We’ve just got to see what the options are and go from there.”


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