Life After The Tobacco Buyout

By: Courtney Lassiter
By: Courtney Lassiter

Tobacco means heritage to growers, and it also means money to Kentucky.
In fact, an acre of tobacco generally contributes about
$40,000 in federal, state, and local tax revenues to Kentucky.
Every one-million dollars of additional tobacco production contributes a total of $3.6 million to the Kentucky economy.
For decades tobacco auctions represented the primary way for Kentucky burley growers to sell their tobacco.
Until this season, auction prices were supported through
federal subsidies. This is better known as the Tobacco Buyout.
Farmer Ronnie Hargett says everyone grew tobacco.
"Not just tradition keeps us in it, even though it is that we've been apart of American farming -- it kept many family farms together."
Larry Hayes, a grower too and a huge part of other farmer's lives, says growing tobacco is what payed for his house.
"It put a lot of money in circulation at the end of the year, educated a lot of kids, pays for a lot of farms in Kentucky."
They both look back at their careers in agriculture and say they wouldn't do it any other way, but don't wish a career in agriculture on their children.
"I can't, as a parent, encourage my son to get into the business, I know what kind of strife is in front of him." Hargett knows all too well the hard work growing tobacco can be. He calls it a "high risk crop." He laughs and says "growing a crop of tobacco might kill you." Despite the hard work, they both love it. Hargett chose to take the cut in his crop after the buyout and continue to grow tobacco. He farms cattle and hay to make ends meet now. But, Hayes quit. "I was going to take a 50 cent a pound cut." Even Brennan's Tobacco Warehouse, which was notorious for it's opening auction day to farmers in South Central Kentucky, closed. After 26 years of working there, Hayes sits in the empty warehouse and reminisces.
"Not seeing all the farmers being able to talk to 'em you see 'em once a year you remember them, they remember you, I miss seeing all of that."


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