5 On Your Side

N.C. Tobacco Farmers Profit in Overseas Market

Posted July 17, 2007

— North Carolina's tobacco farmers are growing more of the plant - despite higher state cigarette taxes, lower statewide cigarette sales and the end of price supports in 2004.

That growth is largely due to farmers' ability to tap into the overseas tobacco market, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture.

"We're exporting quite a bit of tobacco overseas. ... The overseas market is lucrative, and we think that it holds a lot of promise for the future of tobacco farming in North Carolina," said Brian Long, an agriculture department spokesperson.

Along with being the country's top producer of tobacco, North Carolina is the leading exporter of tobacco among U.S. states, shipping out $292 million worth of the leaf in 2005, the most recent year for which the state agriculture department has statistics.

North Carolina accounts for 38 percent of U.S. tobacco exports and 70 percent of the crop grown domestically.

Jimmy McKenzie grows tobacco on a farm near Smithfield in Johnston County, which has seen a 25 percent increase in tobacco production since the 2004 tobacco buyout. McKenzie said that he and his son farm 150 acres, nearly double what they worked before the buyout.

He said that while he isn't sure exactly how much of his tobacco is exported overseas, "we just got it in our system, and that's what we want to do, and hopefully, we can continue to make a living at it."

McKenzie attributed part of his farm's growth to the gap left by many farmers who quit growing tobacco after the buyout.

"Supply and demand, you know. They want us to raise more, but like I said, we're about at our limit for right now," said McKenzie.

Fewer competitors and the abolition of quotas has allowed families, including the McKenzies, to extend their production as much as they want.

"Money. Just more income. My son is married now and got two children, built a house," said McKenzie.

The experience of farmers such as the McKenzies thriving after the tobacco buyout has been seen statewide, said state agriculture officials.

"We're actually this year growing more than we grew in the last couple years in the quota system," said Long.

However, the state agriculture department said that it is too early to tell what impact the increased cigarette tax will have on tobacco growers in the years to come.

Earlier this week, state officials announced cigarette sales decreased more than 18 percent statewide, just one year after North Carolina increased its cigarette tax.


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  • doodad Jul 18, 2007

    Tobacco is acturally a medicinal plant. The cigarette manufacturers add nicotine to increase addition and I don't have any facts but I really believe that they add chemicals that actually cause cancer.

    Marajuana is also derived from a plant and as far as I know it does not cause cancer.

  • 68_polara Jul 18, 2007

    Your right.

  • ENC-43 Jul 18, 2007

    well, you know what? we're all going to die from something........hate to be the bearer of bad news. tobacco, like everything else in our lives is a choice. you can either do it or not. drink alcohol or not, the list goes on........

  • 68_polara Jul 18, 2007

    We are all face with moral dilemmas, I'm glad I'm personally not faced with this one. But hey, at least your not raising animals and feeding them on your land. According to the Sierra Club and the EPA this results in pollution. What a bunch of wackos.

  • blb071487 Jul 18, 2007

    Why is this such a bad thing? Farmers have to find new ways to support their families and if selling the crop over sea's helps then they should continue. My father farms tobacco and yes I do agree that it's not healthy for anyone to smoke, but it has been around for generations and there are many other substances that can kill... it's not only tobacco.

  • 68_polara Jul 18, 2007

    This is truly bad news, it just means more people will die from a product we make here in our own state. Is it really worth it.?