Smokin' Sales in '05?

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For years the American tobacco crop has been controlled by federal quotas that outlined which farmers could grow the crop and how much could be grown each year.

For years growers have been asking for a buyout to the program so they could get out of the business without losing all they've invested. This fall they got their wish.

Fred Wetherington, a tobacco farmer, says, "It's not quite the buyout we all hoped for in the beginning because they're paying based on the 2002 quota price instead of going back to the '97-'98 rate where we earned more, but you know, realistically we really are fortunate."

Local farmers say they're certain the tobacco processing plant will come to life next year, but they admit they are uncertain about the overall future of the tobacco crop in south Georgia.

Wetherington adds, "There's a new, little stress for the next year about, ‘okay, were out of the tobacco business or there's a big change in the business, what exactly will I be doing?’ Especially if you are not at retirement."

Despite the uncertainty, local tobacco farmers say the buyout of the federal buyout program is what they've needed.

"It's a blessing. I'll be honest with you. I'm thankful."

They’re thankful that change is on the way for many tobacco growers.