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Farmers Sustain Heavy Tobacco Losses East of Interstate 95

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DUPLIN COUNTY — In many counties east of Interstate 95, the high winds were a big blow to tobacco farmers. The most valuable part of the tobacco crops were still in the fields when Hurricane Bonnie went through.

"Four, five, probably eight leaves, nine leaves broken off. The rest are shredded into nothing," Duplin County tobacco farmer Henry Carlton says.

Carlton says he just can't get a break. First Hurricane Fran, now Bonnie. He says 70 percent of his valuable top leaves are ruined from the rain and wind.

"It shredded tobacco, blew a lot of leaves off and laid a lot of stalks down. It's going to hurt the quality of what's left," Carlton explained.

Carlton spent the morning assessing the damage in his 54 acres of tobacco.

"This is absolutely no good," he said.

Statewide, state and county agents are beginning similar damage assessments. What's in the field is not the only problem facing Carlton and other farmers. With scattered power outages, some farmers don't have electricity to ventilate their barns.

The loss of electricity has already started to take it's toll on the leaves in the barns. Many of them have started to rot from lack of air.

The state Department of Agriculture has generators available. Already, more than 200 farmers have called looking for help. It may be their only hope to salvage barns filled with tobacco.

But, there is good news for Henry Carlton. His power was restored Thursday afternoon. State inmates have also been sent to tobacco fields in five counties to help farmers pick up their plants.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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