Thursday, November 02, 2000

Burley growers reject plan

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — Given a second chance to decide on a fundamental change to the tobacco economy, Kentucky burley growers defeated a referendum that would have allowed cross-county leasing.

        In a vote split largely along regional lines, tobacco farmers decided to preserve a system in which quota owners can lease pounds only to growers in the same county, except in times of agricultural disasters.

        “Essentially, eastern Kentucky voted it down and the western Kentucky counties, for the most part, favored cross-county leasing, said Bob Finch, a spokesman for Farm Service Agency in Kentucky, which on Wednesday announced the results of last month's voting.

        The voting took place Oct. 23-27 across Kentucky. The outcome won't become official until the vote is certified by the U.S. agriculture secretary within a month, Mr. Finch said.

        The vote was a reversal from balloting in January in a referendum that was later thrown out in a court challenge.

        The perception this time was that allowing quota owners to lease their quotas across county lines would have shifted large chunks of tobacco quota — and income — from one part of Kentucky to another.

        “The great fear was that the majority of the tobacco would be grown in western Kentucky,” on larger, more economical farms, said Kentucky Farm Bureau President Sam Moore. “It would come out of the family farm system where it's traditionally been grown in eastern Kentucky.”


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