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Tobacco Quotas Fall 18 Percent

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ROCKY MOUNT — Tobacco growers hoped for the best but prepared for the worst Tuesday as they waited for theU. S. Department of Agriculture'sannouncement on tobacco quotas.

Tuesday evening, growers learned that the government is reducing their crop by 18 percent.

The quota tells tobacco farmers how much they can sell next year which translates into how much they can make next year.

The quota for 1999 is 666.2 million pounds, down from 807.6 million pounds this past year.

Last year was not a good year for tobacco, and everyone expected the quota to drop this year.

Because last year's crop did not sell out, most expected a cut this year. During the wait, a small group of farmers went to Edgecombe County to hear from the man who helped negotiate the most recent tobacco settlement.

Attorney General Mike Easleysays he wants to use some of that money to help communities rooted in tobacco. "Part of my job in the negotiations was to try and make certain that other states understood who the tobacco farmer was," Easley says.

"The tobacco farmer is somebody who has been playing by the rules. They haven't done anything wrong. They wouldn't do anything to hurt a child; they don't want kids to smoke. And tobacco's very important to our economy, and it is a legal product. I think I made the point with them," Easley says, "and I think it's going to bring some stability through the settlement and that the future will be little more certain, a little more predictable for all of us."

Easley's office says representatives from 12 states will meet in Raleigh Friday to talk about the settlement and the future of the industry.

From Staff and Wire Reports