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Tobacco Farmers Vote On Whether To Fund Research

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WILSON, N.C. — Tobacco farmers voted Wednesday on a program to invest in their future.

Under the plan, growers give money to a tobacco research fund. The research already has made an impact down on the farm -- as well as in residential backyards.

Only a few tobacco bales were left in David Hinnant's pack house Wednesday. All the Wilson County farmer had to do was vote on the new tobacco referendum.

A "yes" vote means Hinnant and other farmers will pay out a combined total of about $350,000 to continue tobacco research -- research that has radically changed the tobacco industry.

"When I was a little boy, I remember the mules and the sleds in the field," Hinnant said. "We've gone from that to bulk barns and automatic harvesters, and it will continue to change."

The tobacco referendum dollars will end up at a research university like North Carolina State. But those dollars will not stay at the school. The technology and information that are gathered with those dollars head right back to the farm.

"These funds are absolutely essential to our program," said Dr. Johnny Wynne, interim dean of NCSU's School of Agriculture. "Our faculty could not do the research without the check-off funds."

A lot of the money funds research into tobacco plant diseases like tomato spotted wilt virus. That virus affects all kinds of vegetable crops -- even nursery plants like the ones in people's yards.

"Last year, it caused more losses than any other disease since they've been keeping these kinds of records," said Dr. Jim Moyer, NCSU researcher.

Hinnant said the research is key to keeping tobacco farmers farming.

The referendum is expected to pass. If it does, it will allow the research to continue for six years.

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