Local News

Many Farmers Protest From the Farm

Posted February 28, 1999

— Most North Carolina farmers skippedMonday's tractorcadein Raleigh, but the growers WRAL talked to who support the protest say it may be too little too late.

With greenhouses, many North Carolina tobacco farmers carefully give their seedlings a head start on the growing season, a start in shallow water that floats the seed trays.

Many growers passed up the tractorcade in Raleigh. They say that tobacco settlement or not, it's their future and their livelihood that is floating in the greenhouse's trays.

"If there's anything left for the farmer, he's going to be last," said farmer Kenneth Woods.

Woods says he will stay with tobacco two more years. Then, after 60 years in the fields, he will retire. But many of the farmers he knows cannot make that choice.

They say the climate just is not right to carry on what used to be the backbone of North Carolina's farm economy.

"It's a lot folks that went out this year that probably had planned to farm this year. But, after all the controversy over the settlements and what not, they just had to quit. They just sold out," said Woods.

The tiny seedlings will stay in the greenhouse two months. Then, it's out to the fields. But, almost any farmer will say he his not looking much farther when asked about the future.

Farmer Wayne Yancey says add a 35 percent quota cut to the tobacco settlement debate, and the future is clear.

"You are going to see a lot of farmers have to get out when you look at a 35 percent cut in the last two years. It's also 35 percent of your income that is gone. It's going to be some farmers have to get out so some farmers can stay in. Who goes? I don't know," said Yancey.

As they take a break from putting this year's crop in, many North Carolina farmers hope their future is not going up in smoke.

All of the tobacco farmers WRAL talked to say they call their futures "short term."

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