Confronted with climbing operational costs and reduced revenues from declining cotton acreage, the San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board has voted to increase the assessments that fund its research and monitoring program.

The board raises the assessment for its approved cottons to $4 per hundredweight of undelinted cottonseed sold in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV). That is up from the old rate of $3.75. The assessment for nonapproved cottons goes up to $9 per hundredweight, up from $5.50.

The new assessments will become effective this spring.

While SJV cotton acreage has been down, the board's costs have been going up, “especially in gathering fiber and yarn lab data for our testing programs,” said SJV Cotton Board Chairman Bill Stone, a Stratford, Calif., cotton producer.

“The board has had to dip into its reserves for the last two years to supplement program costs,” Stone said.

The board's 2002-03 budget for both approved and nonapproved cottons is $1,069,544, compared to a projected $980,000 for 2003-04. Program costs for 2001-02 reached $908,754.

The board's budget is based on assumptions of approved cotton acreage at 780,000 for Acalas and Pimas, and nonapproved cotton acreage at 35,000 during 2003.

Last increase

The assessment for approved cottons was last increased in January 2000, when the rate was increased to $3.75 from $3. The assessment rate for nonapproved cottons was last changed in January 2001, when the amount was lowered to $5.50 from $7.35.

In other activities, the full slate of members and alternates after recent elections was announced. The board now consists of the following members and alternates:

Fresno County. Tom Fairless (member) and Jeremy Hughes (alternate); Norm Clark (member) and Danny Locke (alternate).

Kern County, Louie Crettol (member); Rick Wegis (member) and Michael Young (alternate).

Kings County, Bill Stone (member) and Erik Hansen (alternate); Larry Bettencourt (member) and Dennis Sargent (alternate).

Madera County Steve Smith (member) and Brad Schnoor (alternate).

Merced County, Cannon Michael (member) and Pat Gallichio (alternate).

Tulare County Ron Clark (member) and Pat Loftis (alternate); Vincent Sola (member) and Steve Milanesio (alternate).

Cottonseed processors, Dave DeFrank (member) and Greg Gillard (alternate); Mary Wadsworth (member) and Ross Hall (alternate).

Cotton ginners, Pete Estep (member) and Mark Ptacek (alternate); Fred Cook (member) and Louie Colombini (alternate).

Cotton merchants, Craig Stevens (member) and Dan Sullivan (alternate); Tom Ullman (member) and Bruce Groefsema (alternate).

Public members, Robert Wills (member) and John Slaughter (alternate).

Longtime board member and alternate Leon Wilcox was honored at the board's January meeting for his 24-year contribution to the SJV Cotton Board. Wilcox, who is retiring from the board, was one of the original members of the Acala Cotton Board. Formed in 1979, it was the predecessor of the SJV Cotton Board. Wilcox served as a board member from 1979-86, and as an alternate from 1987 to the present.

The Quality Cotton District includes all cotton-producing counties within the San Joaquin Valley.