Tar Heel Tobacco Farmer Ponders His Future
Posted September 1, 1996
RALEIGH — President Clinton's recently announced plans to restrict tobacco advertising seen by teen-agers and to have nicotine classified as a drug, have left many tobacco farmers fearing that their farming tradition is in danger.
One such North Carolina tobacco farmer is Jackie Thompson.
"It makes me wonder what kind of future we have for tobacco, and what my son may have as a future," Thompson says as he shows a visitor around his tobacco fields.
Tobacco is still Jackie Thompson's livelihood but he doesn't know for how long. President Clinton announced that nicotine would be regulated as a drug -- a goal now targeted towards curbing teen smoking. Thompson feels it's all part of an effort to put tobacco people out of business.
"It saddens me a whole lot because this is my livelihood. Something I have done for all of my life. I have never known anything else but tobacco farming," Thompson says.
There's been talk of compromise, whereby the tobacco companies would pay billions of dollars to be protected from lawsuits for years to come. But Thompson says that will also end up in farmers' laps.
"We are the ones that will have to pay that ransom back to the government, and I do think it's unfair."
Though politicians from both parties in the state say they are on the side of Thompson and other tobacco farmers, Thompson says the situation is enough to make him rethink his politics.
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"I tell them I feel like I am going to be the last American tobacco farmer because I am going to fight till the very end."
Thompson says the success of tobacco enables many farmers to grow food crops such as corn and small grains. He warns that if tobacco goes, so will a lot of this country's food supply