Choose cotton in July 15 vote

By SLADE BLACKWELL / Guest Columnist

On July 15, Alabama voters will have an opportunity to vote for Amendment 1 — “Choose Cotton” – on the ballet. This provision would allow Alabama’s cotton farmers to hold a vote on the future of their checkoff program.

Alabama farmers have supported the cotton checkoff for more than 30 years. Checkoff money is collected as a self-imposed fee, which farmers pay when selling cotton at a gin. The money must be used for research, education and promotion of cotton. If it passes, cotton farmers would then decide on whether to make checkoff participation automatic. I support this amendment and our state’s cotton farmers.

The boll weevil eradication project was supported by checkoff funds. Removing that destructive insect from Alabama is a big reason cotton remains an important part of our state’s economy. Cotton accounts for 2,800 jobs and $290.1 million in economic impact for Alabama.

All Alabama farmers and consumers have benefited from the important research and promotion funded through the check- off. Additional studies have helped increase production on farms, while improving soil quality and minimizing environmental impacts.

Maintaining a strong cotton market is good for consumers because it ensures a steady supply of cotton products at reasonable prices.

When the checkoff was established in the ‘70s, cotton was in danger of losing market share to synthetic fabrics. The industry rebounded in large part thanks to the “Cotton — The fabric of our lives” slogan and ad campaigns, funded by the checkoff.

All Alabama cotton farmers have the checkoff program to thank for helping keep them in business. However, the current checkoff contains a refund policy, which only 7 percent of farmers request. That means those farmers are benefiting from the program without paying into it.

It’s common sense. Voting “yes” on Amendment 1 on July 15 will simply allow our cotton farmers to hold their own vote on an issue affecting their livelihoods. Please, “Choose Cotton” and support the amendment.