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In late September, the USDA said that U.S. tobacco production recovered dramatically in the second season since the termination of the quota program, gaining nearly 100 million pounds for a 15 percent increase. Previous production declines reversed themselves after many growers who didnít elect to retire decided to expand production this year.
Thatís good news for tobacco farmers in general, but what does that mean for you specifically? If nothing else, itís a sign that tobacco companies are still interested in the leaf produced by U.S. farmers. If youíre a tobacco farmer whoís looking to future crops to pay the bills, thatís a positive.
Of course, farmers still have their share of issues they are dealing with. Infrastructure and fuel costs and, especially, labor issues worry many farmers these days. Another concern, one that farmers across the nation share, is the lack of opportunity for younger growers these days.
Ask yourself, what if you were 21 or 22 years old and had a burning desire to farm? Aside from the hard work and financial risk you face, would you even be able to start a tobacco farm? Where would you get the money or land if you didnít have family help?
Tobacco Farm Quarterly explores this problem in our current issue. Iím not sure if we have any answers, but I hope weíve shed some light on this problem. Somebody needs to be able to take the reins from retiring farmers in the future.
Perhaps succeeding generations from current growers will be enough to fulfill future demand. But at least some of my sources tell me many aspiring farmers go into other aspects of the industry because of the lack of opportunity. It seems a shame these potential farmers donít have a chance to follow their hearts into the career of their choice.
Iím pleased to see that production is on an upswing. I hope it can continue. But remember, no matter how much production rebounds, the potential is limited if no one is around to grow it.