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Farmers Look Ahead To Life After Buyout

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MIDDLEBURG, N.C. — Tobacco farmers are close to a buyout deal. While the House and Senate iron out the details, many farmers are thinking about their future.

On Ronald Stainback's farm in Middleburg, there is one tobacco field after another -- 181 acres of the golden leaf that could put a lot of cash in Stainback's pocket if the tobacco buyout goes through.

"I'm ready to take the money," he said Friday.

As both a grower and the holder of growing rights known as a quota holder, Stainback stands to collect more than $3 million. He is quick to respond to the "instant-millionaire" status.

"Well, I don't mind being called an instant millionaire, but that's not true," he said. "I mean, you will have the money, but it will be over a period of time. A lot of that money will be used to pay bills that have been created over the years."

Stainback said he has spent a fortune on his tobacco operation, from the machines that work the crops to the curing barns. He has 32 curing barns, where the green leaf turns golden brown.

Warren County farmer Emery Keeter owns a much smaller tobacco farm, 81 acres. That will generate a much smaller buyout amount.

"Maybe it will help me pay farm credit off," he said. "It would not make me rich."

As for getting out of the business, both Keeter and Stainback want to try growing tobacco without government price guarantees.

After all, both of them have grown tobacco all of their lives. Neither of them is ready to close the door.

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