Cotton amendment to be on GOP primary ballot - - The News for South Mississippi

Cotton amendment to be on GOP primary ballot

(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)

When voters head to the polls to cast their ballots in the GOP primary next week, they'll see what appears to be another mundane and convoluted proposed constitutional amendment.

Make no mistake, that's exactly what it is.

"Whether there'll be a refund or not, that's what it boils down to," says John McMillan, Alabama's Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries.

A "yes" vote would allow Alabama's cotton growers to hold a referendum on the future of certain refunds that are issued to some growers after they take their cotton to gins.

A "no" vote would mean that a vote wouldn't take place.

"The people who grow cotton would decide whether to continue to refund the check-off amount of money, which is a dollar per bale and that's processed at the gin," McMillan said of the practice.

The amount of money refunded is small considering the size of the industry.

Roughly seven percent of growers have their money refunded to the tune of about $40,000 per year. That's a small chunk of the $280 million economic impact the industry provides each year to Alabama's economy.

McMillan said of the election, "I think the thing that has people talking is about why this is on next week's ballot."

The timing is odd for such a mundane proposed constitutional amendment. McMillan offered his own theory.

"I think it has to do with the harvest times," McMillan said. "The logic to me is that in the event it passes then that referendum would be a in a position to collect those check offs at the Fall harvest time."

The cash collected by gins goes to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and is then transferred to the Alabama Cotton Commission.

The money has been used in the past for research and marketing campaigns promoting the cotton industry.

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