For decades, large tobacco buying companies counted on farmers to be the crops most potent political supporters. Now, according to an AP story, big tobacco is letter farmers go.
Two years ago, Kentucky farmer Jess Burrier was growing 600,000 pounds of leaf for Philip Morris. This year, he received a “Dear John letter” from the company telling him his services were no longer needed. A University of Kentucky researcher figures that Kentucky farmers will lose a fourth of their contracts this year, a trend that is being repeated in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Virginia. North Carolina contracts are down about 10 percent from last year.
U.S. tobacco is being replaced by leaf from overseas, according to AP writer Bruce Schreiner. And demand is shrinking as U.S. cigarette sales drop.
Schreiner describes Burrier’s plight: “The small contract won’t pay his mortgage, and the money he invested in tobacco setters and sprayers will largely go to waste. In the fall, he’ll only need two of his 15 tobacco barns for curing leaf; he’ll rent a few others to farmers who snagged larger contracts.