Tobacco Buyout Gains Support In N.C.
Posted October 4, 2002 4:23 a.m. EDT
KINSTON, N.C. — Congress is considering a buyout of the quota system that controls production of tobacco.
North Carolina grows one-third of United States tobacco, but cutbacks have decreased profits in recent years, according to tobacco studies.
In order to grow and sell tobacco in North Carolina, farmers must own or lease quotas.
Critics say the program drives up the cost of United States tobacco, making it less competitive in world markets.
"We're at a crossroads. Either we are going to grow and bring in our tobacco onto the world market, or we are going to end up losing the whole situation," said Richard Renegar, president of North Carolina Tobacco Growers.
The quota system has been in place for 80 years, but some critics said it is contributing to instability.
"It's very stressful as a farmer. You're uncertain what the next year will bring. It's a situation where you can't really predict what's going on," said Dr. Blake Brown, an economist at
North Carolina State University
If Congress decides to buy out the current system, farmers and quota holders in North Carolina could receive up to $6 billion.
If Congress rejects the buyout, it may raise taxes on tobacco products.