Tobacco growers support buyout plan - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Tobacco growers support buyout plan

By Scott Hunter

November 30, 2003

Moultrie--Georgia tobacco growers are supporting a buyout plan introduced by tobacco-state lawmakers that would pay them billions of dollars to stop growing the crop under a federal price-support system . It's part of a federal price-support program that has sustained farmers since the Depression.

"This barn is not used for anything else. It's used for strictly tobacco!" exclaims Jerry York, manager at the Ashburn plantation. It's hard for York to hide his concerns about the future of Ashburn Plantation and it's most profitable tobacco crop. " It's a lot of people's bread and butter it has been for years. Tobacco has sent a lot of kids threw colleges its bought farms," says York.

But that bread and butter has become hard pressed. Government restrictions have slashed tobacco production almost in half and consumer demand for cigarettes continues to shrink. "We have had to cut our work force. You just have to do what you have to just keep going," says York.

South Georgia farmers not only have to work under strict quotas but also have to compete with cheap foreign tobacco. Farmers support legislation for 15 billion dollar government buyout. Money they could use to stay competitive and cut losses. " We are looking for answer for what they are going to do for us here to compensate us for these quota losses," says York.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris U-S-A and Americans for Tax Reform oppose the buyout, so Congressional supporters have expressed doubts it'll be approved this year. Tobacco farmers expect the government will cut tobacco production another 20 percent by 2004.

posted at 4:50PM by scott.hunter@walb.com