PERSON COUNTY, N.C. — Many tobacco warehouses may have held their last auction, but tobacco is far from a dying business. Some farmers are joining together to run a cigarette manufacturing plant in Person County.
"As soon as we can get our license from the federal government, we will start making cigarettes for our own brands and some on contract too," said Lioniel Edwards, general manager of the Flue-Cured Tobacco Stabilization Corp.
The same farmers co-op responsible for getting tobacco sold in the days of the tobacco program is ready to roll out two or three brands of cigarettes with a home-grown flavor.
"The flue-cured tobacco used in our brand of cigarettes will be all home-grown, U.S.-grown, not imported tobacco," Edwards said.
Edwards wants to see the cigarette factory reach the small farmer, who may be at a disadvantage in competing with larger growers.
"We are particularly interested in the farmer who does not have a contract or does not want or can't get a contract to grow tobacco," he said. "We hope we can provide an outlet for him and some of his tobacco."
The co-op bought the Person County plant with reserve money from its farmer members. The money to buy tobacco, nearly $300 million, was borrowed from the federal government. The co-op has not yet settled on a name for its brands. The plant must wait for approval for its license before operations can begin.