Tobacco Warehouses Fade In Popularity
Posted July 23, 2001
WILSON, NC — The tobacco warehouse has quickly become an endangered species, but the tradition is not ready to die off just yet for farmers like Charles Baker of Fuquay-Varina.
Baker still prefers the auction over selling directly to tobacco companies.
"I like the warehouse system, especially the auction," Baker says. "When you go to contracting, you don't really know what's going to happen, and as long as they do it the auction way, at least we do think we have a chance."
But Baker is in the minority. Almost 80 percent of our state's tobacco growers are bypassing the warehouse this summer and selling directly to tobacco companies.
Nevertheless, the tobacco stabilization cooperative believes there is still money to be made on the auction floor.
A pilot program this summer will operate two warehouses in Wilson to keep the option available.
The people running the program believe flexibility for farmers could eventually bring some back to their roots.
"We know that we're moving into new territory with the auction system," says sales director Kenneth Kelly. "It has to be flexible and change, but at the same time, we'd be able to hold onto some of those great traditions that we do have."
Keeping warehouses available could also save hundreds of jobs for farm workers.