Local News

N.C. Tobacco Farmers Hope To Benefit From Settlement

Posted May 20, 2003

— Word is spreading through farm communities of a big settlement with tobacco companies.

Bert Pitt, an Edgecombe County farmer, is one of the people expected to benefit from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit. He said he is looking forward to his share of the $200 million that tobacco companies have agreed to pay.

"No, it's not going to be a giant check. It's just maybe going to cover some of the expenses we've got," he said.

Although $200 million may seem like a lot of money, it will be split 400,000 ways. Half of the money will go to farmers and half of the money will go to those who own the quota.

"It's not going to be more than enough than to say we're going to take the wife and children to Sunday dinner and we'll leave the rest in the collection plate," said Graham Boyd, of the Tobacco Growers Association.

The average farmer is likely to get a few hundred dollars. Pitt feels the real value is a guarantee that companies will continue to buy U.S. grown tobacco, and it may help lay the groundwork for bigger changes.

"I think this is more. Maybe the companies and the farmers getting together to settle an issue before we get to the main issue," he said.

Many tobacco farmers hope it will help lead to a buyout of federal quota system, which could mean better days ahead for farmers who have watched their profits shrivel in recent years.

There will not be many large checks cut from this settlement, and it may take years to find and verify all the people eligible for payment.


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