Local News

State Tobacco Farmers Allowed To Grow More Crop Next Year

Posted December 14, 2001

— The U.S. Agriculture Department gave tobacco farmers an early Christmas present Friday, announcing a 6 percent increase in the amount of flue-cured leaf farmers will be allowed to grow in 2002.

The increase follows several years of cuts that nearly halved the amount of tobacco growers can produce to 548.9 million pounds this year from more than 1 billion pounds in 1997.

The increase announced Friday will allow flue-cured tobacco farmers to produce 582 million pounds next year.

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, a part-time tobacco grower, said news of the increased quota was just what farmers needed to hear this close to Christmas.

"This is great news for tobacco farmers, their families and communities who have been experiencing a near depression for the past five years," Etheridge said. "After years of large quota cuts, tobacco quotas are on the rise and tobacco farm families can enjoy the holiday season knowing their incomes are going up next year.''

The news is making tobacco farmers very happy.

"We went through three years of drastic cuts that nearly cut our allotment in half, and then last year, we were basically flat or an 1 percent increase, so this is certainly good news," said tobacco grower Pender Sharp.

Farmers are still far below where they were just a few years ago, but they say this is a step in the right direction. The industry is going through a shakedown right now as many farmers get out of the business.

Some say replacing the allotment system with a buyout would push tobacco into a true supply-demand market.

"Our price is too high worldwide and with the system we're operating in today, it's necessary for those prices to be that high in order to have a profit," said Sharp.

About 80 percent of the state's tobacco bypassed warehouses last summer and went straight to manufacturers. A similar amount is expected next summer.

Etheridge said he had called on the top four U.S. tobacco manufacturers to increase their buying intentions for next year. On Dec. 3, USDA announced that manufactures had increased their buying intentions by 13 million pounds.

Flue-cured tobacco quotas are established by USDA by Dec. 15 of each year based on the three-year export average, the amount of tobacco being held for future sale by the Flue-cured Tobacco Stabilization Cooperative and the purchase intentions of domestic tobacco manufacturers.

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