MIDDLEBURG, N.C. — Farmers in Vance County are in the middle of this year's tobacco harvest, but their focus is on the buyout that could come by the end of the year.
Tobacco growers are handling some of the best-looking tobacco in years, thanks to great weather. In most places, farmers and buyers have already set the price for the leaf which is good and bad. With no auction, there is no competition to drive up the price, but farmers like Carlton Polythress enjoy the new way the tobacco business is handled.
"I used to come in and have to wait. Now, they schedule you to be here, come in, unload and pick up your check," tobacco grower Carlton Polythress said.
Growers are about halfway through the growing season, harvesting the lower leaves for about $1.70 per pound. The top leaves come next. They are more valuable and will bring about $1.90 a pound.
Tobacco growers profits have steadily declined for several years because the government controls how much farmers can grow.
"That's going to kill me. Just put me out of business unless there is some type of buyout," Polythress said.
"If we don't get a tobacco buyout, the program that was instituted in 1939 in the era of the Depression is not going to work in the 21st century," tobacco grower Kenneth Clark said.
Clark's wish could get answered next month, when Congress returns to start finalizing a tobacco buyout bill. Many of the farmers are crossing their fingers.
"I want to keep farming. I'm too old to retire, too young to want to do anything different," Polythress said.
Government quotas reduced this year's tobacco production by as much as 30 percent.