Alabama voters will have the opportunity on Tuesday to vote on the Alabama Cotton Producer Assessment Refund Amendment otherwise known as Amendment 1.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Alabama cotton growers produced 590,000 bales of cotton in 2013, a dollar value of $213 million.
Alabama cotton producers levy a fee of $1 per bale of cotton through a voluntary checkoff program to finance cotton research, education, and promotional programs. A refund policy is available to cotton farmers and approximately 7% request it.
The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (AGI) is responsible for administering the checkoff program and collecting the fee from producers at cotton gins across the state.
AGI submits the collected funds to the private Alabama Cotton Commission each quarter for disbursement. The Alabama Cotton Commission is comprised of 11 cotton farmers from across Alabama who serve without compensation.
Amendment 1 seeks to eliminate the refund policy for cotton farmers who choose not to participate in the checkoff program. If passed, Amendment 1 will limit choice in the marketplace for cotton growers across Alabama.
As an advocate of choice in education and business, cotton producers should be afforded the same opportunity as parents to decide where to send their kids to school or businesses to choose how to operate with respect to their faith.
The checkoff program uses a government bureaucracy, in this case AGI, to establish the eligibility requirements and mechanism for collecting the fee on cotton producers in Alabama.
As an advocate of limited government, usage of a governmental agency to administer, collect, and disperse funds via the cotton checkoff program is inappropriate.
The better choice is to vote NO on Amendment 1 and keep the cotton checkoff program voluntary for cotton producers across the state.
The best choice is to remove control of the cotton checkoff program from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and allow cotton growers the opportunity to establish their own program without input by the government.
David Pinkleton is the Chairperson of Conservatives for Good Government, which promotes conservative policy at all levels of government in Alabama.