MACON -- Georgia cotton producers are voting in a referendum to decide the fate of the 39-year-old Cotton Commission. The voting began Feb. 4 and ends March 4.

"Georgia Farm Bureau would like to encourage cotton producers across the state to participate in this referendum," said Georgia Farm Bureau President Wayne Dollar. "The Cotton Commission has worked hard to improve growing and marketing conditions for this crop, once again making it one of Georgia's leading row crops."

The commission is funded through a per bale assessment paid by Georgia's cotton producers. All money is used to promote the state's cotton crop through research, education and promotional activities. The commission supports the Extension Cotton Team and a multitude of research programs. Promotional activities include 4-H and FFA programs, a cotton exhibit displayed at consumer and ag industry events and maintenance of a Web site at www.gacottoncommission.org.

The commission works as a liaison between Georgia growers and the National Cotton Council and Southern Cotton Growers Association. In turn, these organizations represent the interests of Georgia producers in Washington.

In recent years, the commission worked diligently to help secure state and federal funds for the micro-gin facility constructed in Tifton. This gin will greatly enhance cotton research, particularly in cotton plant breeding and fiber quality improvement, by allowing scientists to gin their small plot samples in a process that closely emulates commercial ginning. This gin is expected to be operational for the 2004 crop. The commission also helped secure federal funding for water use work and a USDA nematologist for resistance and tolerance studies.

Since the start of the commission in 1965, producers must vote every three years for it to continue. The Georgia Department of Agriculture has mailed ballots to each grower. If you are a cotton producer and have not received a ballot, contact the Commodities Promotion Division of the Georgia Department of Agriculture at 1-800-282-5852.

For more information, contact the Georgia Cotton Commission at (478) 988-4235.

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