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Farmers Looking to Tobacco Alternatives

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Cotton is becoming the new alternative for tobacco farmers.
WILSON — Cotton plants are about the only traditional crop you'll find on BennyBunting's farm these days. The second generation tobacco farmer ismoving away from what used to be good moneymaker, to try something verydifferent.

Bunting's latest projects may turn heads down on the farm, but he believestobacco farmers are going to have to be innovative to survive. His latesteffort is a small-time fish operation for people concerned about pollutedrivers.

He hopes they'll soon bring top dollar. But start up money can be aproblem. Most local banks are glad to lend money for tobacco, butnon-conventional crops are often considered too risky. Bunting was turneddown the first time he asked for money.

"(The bank) said because it does not conform to agricultural production insurrounding communities," explains Bunting. "So they weren't going to gointo any type of alternative production."

But as these new ideas turn a profit, he expects banks will be more willingto help. Bunting says now is the time for concerned farmers to test thewaters.

"In the future we might not have that option. We might be forced to, sowe're better off now exploring for additional resources of information toaugment our loss of tobacco income."

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