Local News

Healthy Crops Do Not Always Mean Healthy Profits

Posted July 20, 1999

— Tobacco is still a billion dollar industry in North Carolina, and this year's crop is about ready for harvest.

Some farmers say good weather is adding up to one of the best tobacco crops in memory, but healthy crops do not necessarily mean a healthy profit.

The weather is great, and the tobacco plants look good, but farmers will still have less money to spend when they get their first paychecks next month.

No matter how good the leaves look, the amount tobacco farmers can grow has dropped by 35 percent in the past two years.

"There's just going to be less to sell and less dollars circulating, and it's going to have a tremendous impact on the financial state of farming across North Carolina," said farmer Pender Sharp.

Farmers are being forced to cut back on spending. That means there will be less money flowing through the economies of tobacco-rich areas.

James Finch is already seeing a difference in his Nashville car dealership.

"It's cut back. We have less farmers coming in and buying vehicles from us. I guess they're getting the old ones repaired a little bit more," said Finch.

What makes matters worse is that almost every other crop is dirt cheap right now. Some farmers are leaving fields empty to cut back on their losses.

An empty field inWilson Countyis a good example. Normally, the farmer would have planted fall cucumbers right now.

But prices are so low that he would actually spend more money to plant the crop than he would get back at the end of the year.

Growers are cutting corners to absorb the shock. They hope that high prices will help them through a difficult time.

The major players in the tobacco deal say some of the money will go to communities that rely on tobacco.

Farmers say the money will help, but they do not think it will make up for expected losses.

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