Local News

40th Annual Tobacco Meeting Under Way In Pinehurst

Posted January 18, 2002

— Entomologists, plant pathologists, manufacturers, suppliers and buyers from around world have one thing in common: tobacco.

They are also all meeting in Pinehurst to share research and to talk about the golden leaf at the 40th Annual Tobacco Workers Meeting.

The group has been meeting since the 1930s, and despite the big changes to the industry in recent years, the size of the meeting has not changed a lot.

"If you look at the retail side of things, the manufacturing, the leaf buying and the university side, we are at about the same level we have been now for several years," said David Smith, Ph.D., a tobacco specialist at N.C. State University.

While the research was shared in meeting sessions, the main topic in the halls of the Pinehurst Resort and Country Club was guessing what would happen with the federal program that dictates how much leaf each farmer can grow.

"If you ask a grower what he has on his mind, it's a buyout. I think our future depends on what happens politically. Agronomically, and from a production standpoint, we know where we are in the world," Smith said.

North Carolina could actually fare well if a federal quota buyout were to take place.

"I think if that were to occur, I think there is every possibility that the tobacco acreage in North Carolina would actually increase to a significant level," said Sterling Southern, an entomologist at N.C. State.

In this time of change for the tobacco industry, farmers right now are not as dependent on the weather forecast as they are for word of what politicians may do with their livelihood.

"It's very difficult to plan. It's very stressful on the families, the farm families that do grow tobacco," said Don Nicholson, a county extension agent.

Those at this meeting have seen meetings come and go and changes in the industry, but many feel the next few years may be unlike anything anyone has seen before.

The meeting runs through Friday.

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