Friday, February 23, 2001

Tobacco growers vote to keep quota system

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Kentucky burley tobacco growers made it clear they want to continue the tradition of national marketing quotas and warehouse auctions with a nearly unanimous vote in favor of the federal quota and price support system.

        Of the 86,954 farmers who voted, 85,682 (98.5 percent) said they wanted to continue marketing quotas on a poundage basis and price support through the 2003 marketing year.

        Kentucky, the country's No. 1 burley tobacco producer, has an estimated 170,000 burley tobacco growers.

        “That's good news,” said Boone County farmer Bob Maurer, who grew tobacco for many years and now leases his tobacco acreage to another grower. “If the quotas are gone and the tobacco companies are able to purchase tobacco through individual contracts, it will eventually reach a point where the companies can tell you they don't like the grade of tobacco you're growing and they won't buy it.”

        Federal quotas are allotments indicating how much farmers can sell based on unsold tobacco from earlier years and on the purchasing intentions of tobacco companies.

        The large tobacco companies have begun a program of negotiating with individual growers, establishing contracts to purchase the entire crop rather than buying burley through open bidding at auction houses.

        “Burley tobacco is one of the few commodities where producers vote on continuation of the price-support system,” Hampton Henton, Jr., the Farm Service Agency's executive director, said Wednesday. “Burley tobacco is vital to the economy of Kentucky.”


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