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greatest opportunity for reducing costs and meeting our competition lies in the field of production research. We are convinced that research is the main answer to the question of cotton meeting its competition. We can regain lost markets and develop new ones through research aimed at cutting costs, and costs must be cut before price competition can be fully met. May we mention four illustrations of what can be done to reduce costs substantially through research. The first is to learn how to cut down on boll shedding. On the average more than one half of the fruiting forms are lost by shedding, To reduce the shedding by only 50 percent would increase yields per acre by 50 percent and increase farm income about one half billion dollars annually at present prices. We need to know a lot more about the physiology of the cotton plant and its relationship to soil, plant food, water, etc., in order to accomplish this for cotton. Although not simple, it is not an impossible task. The next is to learn how to control weeds effectively. Farmers spend, on the average, about $20 per acre, each year, to control weeds. his amounts to about one-third of a billion dollars at the level of acreage permitted under the national allotment. The development of a simple, effective method for controlling weeds would save most of this sum. The third is insect control. Each year 1 bale in 7 is lost to insects— an average loss of about $300 million. A partial solution of these 3 problems alone could reduce the cost of producing cotton by at least 10 cents a pound. If to this we could add an adequate quality-evaluation research program, to enable spinners and farmers to set a true spinning value on cotton, the cotton industry would have solved its most pressing problems in production. We would make special mention, also, of one activity in market research. The consumer and industry surveys of the USDA are extensively used by our industry to guide research and promotion programs. They make an important contribution, and constitute one of the most useful phases of the AMS market research program. Mr. Chairman, we have used these four problems as examples. Mr. Robert R. Coker has given a great deal of attention to one part of one of these problems. It is the boll weevil. He will give you information as to what the situation is researchwise and what might be expected if we could effectively and efficiently cope with this pest. Mr. WHITTEN. Mr. Coker, we will be o to hear from you, sir.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT R. CokeR CoNCERNING COTTON BOLL WEEVIL
Mr. CokeR. Chairman Whitten and members of the Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, my name is Robert R. Coker, farmer * seed breeder of Hartsville, S. C. I am appearing before you in my capacity as adviser to the board of the National Cotton Council of America to present certain facts in support of a request for a substantial increase in Federal funds for urgently needed research on the problem of the cotton boll weevil.
1 President, Coker's Pedigreed Seed Co., Hartsville, S. C., and adviser to the board, National Cotton Council of America. Presented to Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, House of Representatives, Washington, D. C., March 19, 1958.
For the benefit of members of the committee who are not familiar with this insect pest, it will be of interest for them to know that the first home of the cotton boll weevil was undoubtedly in the plateau region of Mexico or Central America. Before 1892 it had spread throughout the larger portion of Mexico. It occurs southward to Guatemala and Costa Rica, and in the east half of Cuba. About 1892 it crossed the Rio Grande near Brownsville, Tex., and entered United States territory. By 1894 it had spread to half a dozen counties in southern Texas, and since has extended its range annually until in 1928 almost all of the important cotton-producing sections except the western irrigated areas had become infested. Attached to this statement is a map showing the area of the Cotton Belt which is affected by this insect pest comprising, based on the 1957 planted acreage, approximately 10 million acres of cotton, producing some 7 million bales of cotton.
Due to the competitive and economic factors which we are now faced with, it seems that it is more imperative than ever that we do everything possible to reduce the cost of growing cotton, and the leadership of the United States cotton industry has recognized the important of effect of the boll weevil on cotton costs in the following resolution which was unanimously passed at the annual meeting of the National Cotton Council in Phoenix, Ariz., in January of this year. I quote:
That the National ('otton Council recognize that the cotton boll weevil is the No. 1 enemy of efficient cotton production in large and important areas of the United States Cotton Belt, and is taking an annual toll of tens of thousands of bales of cotton and of many millions of dollars, and that, in recognition of this, the council pledge its best and most vigorous efforts to obtain fully adequate research funds and research effort aimed at eliminating the cotton boll weevil as a threat to the United States cotton crop at the earliest possible time.
Also, the South Carolina Farm Bureau, at its 1957 annual meeting, recognized the seriousness of the boll-weevil problem with the following resolution:
Since the Southeast is at a competitive disadvantage in cotton production largely due to the boll-weevil losses, we urge the United States Department of Agriculture to intensify its efforts in cotton insect control with the aim of eliminating boll weevil as a major cotton problem.
Official figures which have been compiled by the United States Department of Agriculture beginning with 1909 to 1954 give the percentage of cotton reduction from full yield per acre from bollweevil damage. This is made up in the form of a table, giving percentage of loss by years in individual States. During the 15-year period from 1940 through 1954, based on the percentage of loss in each State, the boll weevil has destroyed a total of 13,764,706 bales of cotton and 5,802,532 tons of cottonseed, valued at $2.257,147,000.
For the 4 principal cotton-producing States of the Southeast, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, the average annual loss during the 1940–54 period has been 13.8 percent of the total crop, which amounts to 5,247,000 bales of cotton and 2,160,000 tons of seed, valued at $862 million. This represents approximately 38 percent of the loss which the boll weevil caused during this 15-year period throughout the entire 13 cotton States where boll weevil is found. South Carolina's loss is shown to be 1,220,000 bales of cotton and 510,000 tons of seed, valued at $201,948,000. The loss for the
State of Mississippi for the 1940–54 period totals almost 2% million bales of cotton, over a million tons of seed, valued at $407 million. For the 6-year period, 1949–54, the average annual loss to the Cotton Belt, according to official USDA figures, was $351,877,000 per year. During that same period of time, the average annual Federal appropriation for boll-weevil research amounted to $54,260, and the §. of the Federal grants to States spent on boll-weevil research was $19,125, or a yearly total of $73,385 for work on a problem which was costing the farmers of the country more than $351 million per year. The amount spent in research amounted to two one-hundredths of 1 percent of the amount lost through damage of this insect. The USDA has had available for spending on the boll weevil since the first Federal appropriation for boll-weevil investigations made in 1896, $3,824,638, plus Federal grants to States of $337,500, or a grand total of $4,162,138. During the period 1922–58, total appropriations for the Cotton Insect Division was $2,498,367. Of that amount, $517,416, or 20.7 percent, was spent for boll-weevil work. It is recognized, of course, that some of the funds which were spent on other cotton insects, namely, pink bollworm, were earmarked for that purpose by Congress. Table showing percentage of reduction from full yield of cotton per acre from boll weevil from 1909–54 is attached hereto; also, tables showing loss by individual States in bales of lint, tons of seed, and dollars for the period 1940–54 for the 13 States where the boll-weevil problem is present. It is interesting to note that, in spite of the development of new and better insecticides and better control methods during recent years, the boll-weevil problem, especially in years of high rainfall during the growing season, is no less serious o during the early years. Note 1950, for example, when the average loss to the 13 States affected amounted to 22.6 percent of the crop, and caused a loss estimated by the USDA in lint and seed of $84.1 million. In addition to the losses to our cotton crop which result from actual loss of production, there are other important and adverse effects caused by the boll-weevil. Prior to the time when this insect appeared on the scene, the cotton varieties then being planted were slowfruiting, late-maturing varieties which began opening during late September or early October, and continued fruiting and producing until plant growth was stopped by frost. In most parts of the cotton South, the month of October is the most ideal from the standpoint of weather conditions for cotton harvest—being a period of moderate to cool temperatures, low rainfall, and moderate humidity. Cotton which opened and was picked in October and early November usually is of better grade and spinning quality, and the seed is better for planting purposes, being of higher germination as well as being of greater value for crushing. As a result of the boll weevil, cotton breeders have found it necessary to develop varieties of earliest possible maturity consistent with high yields, and, as a result, our cotton, in many areas of the South, now begins to open in August and early September, two of our wettest months, when temperatures and humidity are high. The combination of excessive moisture and high temperature causes serious damage to cotton lint, reduction of grade in both seed and lint. It is not unusual
for actual sprouting of cottonseed to occur in the boll when these conditions prevail, causing a loss in germination percentage and an increase in free fatty acid, which greatly reduces the value of the seed for milling.
Without the boll weevil to contend with, or given fully effective methods of control, our cotton farmers could plant their cotton at a later date, which would insure better and more uniform stands, and the cotton, even with our early maturing varieties, would then open after most of the summer rains were over and much of the danger of hurricanes or other tropical storms had passed. A hurricane is sure death to a field of open cotton.
In addition to the weather damage of cotton resulting from early planting and early maturing varieties, the boll weevil also causes loss in grade from partially destroyed bolls where the undamaged and damaged locks are picked and go into the same bale together.
It is estimated that, of the approximately 8 million to 10 million bales of cotton which are now being produced in the parts of the Cotton Belt affected by the boll weevil, not less than 25 percent of this suffers a loss of at least 1 grade from above-mentioned causes. The 1957 loan value of Middling 1432-inch cotton (the approximate average length of the United States crop was 34.04 cents per pound, while the loan value of Strict Low Middling—the grade just below Middling-is only 30.99 cents, a difference of approximately $15 per bale less. Fifteen dollars per bale on 25 percent of the 8-million-bale crop is $30 million loss from reduced grade alone. To this could be added another several million dollars in loss in grade from actual insect damaged lint.
Entomologists of the United States Department of Agriculture tell me that three-fourths of the cotton crop of the 10 million acres in the boll-weevil belt is poisoned annually in an effort to control the insect. The cost for poisoning, depending on the number of applications applied, varies from a few dollars to perhaps $40 per acre. Assuming an average cost of only $10 per acre on one-third of 10 million acres, we have a total expenditure of $75 million on poison.
Because of the complete inadequacy of the Federal funds available for boll-weevil research, it has been necessary in the past for the USDA to devote a considerable part of those funds to the testing and evaluation of cotton insecticide. While it is true that in recent years some very good basic research work has been done on the boll weevil in the Cotton Insect Laboratory, College Station, Tex., still this work is seriously handicapped, both in scope and personnel, by a lack of adequate funds. The 1959 budget estimate for the cotton-insects research of the USDA has been set at $638,380, and of this amount $152,130 is allotted for boll-weevil research. This is the same amount that was appropriated in 1958, and, actually, boll-weevil work will be curtailed due to the necessary increase in grade pay of the Federal workers involved and to increased operating costs. In other words, several scientists who have either retired or been transferred are not being replaced.
While no one can guarantee that a substantial increase in research funds and research effort on the boll-weevil problem can produce either quick or startling results, we have seen amazing developments through research of a sterilization procedure for male screwworm flies, holding great hope upon the eradication of this serious insect pest. Also, a well-planned and well-financed program for the eradication of the fire ant in the Southeastern States, as well as a large-scale, well planned program for eradication of the Mediterranean fruitfly in Florida. The screwworm-eradication program has an appropriation of $1,600,000, and the fire-ant program, $2,400,000. In 1957, $1,590,400 was appropriated for grasshopper control, and $2,795,200 for the control of the gypsy moth. These appropriations are fully justified and urgently needed, but, when considering the relative economic import: ance of these insects in comparison with annual losses from the boll weevil to the cotton crop of this country, and the relative appropriations made for each, we are led to the conclusion that the boll-weevil problem has been seriously neglected. Specifically, we urgently need a massive research attack to solve the boll-weevil problem. This is our only hope for obtaining real relief from the depredations caused by this pest and to help remove from around the necks of the cottongrowers of the South the millstone of excessive production costs. For the acquisition of land and the construction of urgently needed research facilities, we think that at least a million dollars a year will be required for the first year or two. Thereafter necessary operating costs would be needed. This is a modest request and it is my considered judgment that how well this need for adequate boll-weevil research is met, will have an important bearing on the future of cotton roduction in the large and important areas of the Cotton Belt. hank you.