Local News

Wilson's Tobacco Tradition Not As Golden

Posted July 26, 2001 9:27 a.m. EDT

— For 112 years, the Wilson tobacco market has been a tradition for farmers. As a new market opens, there are signs that the state's tobacco tradition may be withering.

With the call of the auctioneer, the tobacco market opened Wednesday. However most of the leaf sold was carryover tobacco from last year.

With tobacco's uncertain future, many farmers and warehouse owners wonder whether this year's auction will be the last.

There used to be 11 tobacco warehouses in Wilson alone. Over the past couple of years, that number has dwindled to four.

Many farmers do not need to go to the auction anymore to sell their leaf. Nearly four out of five are selling directly to tobacco companies in what is called contract growing.

Ronnie Lamm is one Wilson farmer who says it is the most reliable choice for him.

"It seemed to be the way everyone was going and I want to stay in business and I didn't want to get left behind," says Lamm. "I didn't feel like I could save the auction system by myself, so I jumped on the train."

Lamm says he sold his tobacco to Phillip Morris this week for $1.92 a pound. That is the same price farmers got in the auction, but Lamm did not have to pay a warehouse commission.