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Farmers Welcome Small Tobacco Quota Increase

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WILSON COUNTY — Tobacco farmers are celebrating a small victory. For the first time since 1997, they will not face a cut in the amount of tobacco they can sell.

Back in 1997, growers were allowed to produce 973 million pounds of tobacco. The bottom fell out in 1998 when the amount dropped to just a little more than 800 million pounds.

Last year, the amount was cut to 666 million pounds. This year, they were allowed to grow only 543 million pounds.

While next year's 1 percent increase is not much, it is still a victory for farmers.

"We look to this day with anticipation, because we've been through three years with drastic cuts of 17, 18 percent in our quotas each year," says "Over the last three years, we've lost about 50 percent of our quota."

The quota system limits the amount of tobacco sold, so prices can keep up with demand. This announcement turns the tide, at least for next season, on declining tobacco incomes.

Farmers are not the only people who care about farm income. North Carolina's farmers spend a lot of money in the state, especially in eastern counties. The amount of tobacco they grow and sell directly affects thousands of businesses.

Farmers are deciding now how much equipment they will need next year, and how much they can afford to spend. The quota announcement will make that process much easier.

The increase is reassuring in light of the changes the tobacco industry is about to undergo. Many growers will sell directly to cigarette companies next year, instead of putting their leaf in warehouse auctions.


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