The farmers say this is a critical time in their ability to keep their farms up and running. It’s important because it’s already been a tough winter for tobacco farmers. The farmers are hopeful Monday’s meeting will help generate political action which could help turn things around.
Several hundred tobacco farmers packed the meeting hall in Tifton, Georgia on Monday, hoping to learn what their options are in the struggling tobacco crop.
"It's a very important meeting to find out what's going on with the industry, as you know the tobacco industry is in a lot of change right now. This is a very important meeting, when it comes to finding out which way the industry is heading and what we can expect in the future," said Mickey Fourakers, extension agent.
Tobacco farmers have been pushing for a buyout of the federal tobacco quota system, which dictates how much tobacco each farmer can grow. Another major issue: the big tobacco companies continue to use more foreign tobacco, further hurting American farmer's bottom line.
Farmers say a quota buyout, and not a tariff on foreign tobacco, is the only option.
"Because of a lot of the free trade agreements the U.S. has signed, that would almost be impossible, dealing with a lot of the tobacco growing countries that we import from," said Fred Wetherington, a tobacco farmer.
These farmers say they favor a buyout, even if the Food and Drug Administration is given regulation of tobacco products.
"I think we were heard today. We'll get some ideas and some encouragement about the buyout and it will be picked back up in January, and maybe we can get the buyout done in the first part of the year."
Tobacco farmers say they are optimistic a buyout can occur before they are forced out of business. Farmers say it’s because only five states produce a large amount of tobacco, and the other 45 states remain decidedly anti-tobacco.