It's Almost Too Late - Bewildered 1/8/01 10:01 AM  

Dear Commission:

Tobacco growers are about as low as I've ever seen them.  Production cost keeps going up, baling, changing barns, higher fuel prices, contracting, where will it stop?  Now the companies are trying to make us second rate employees with contracting or partnering.  How dumb are we to get sucked in to that plot? 

All across tobaccoland growers are panicked because they don't have a clue where or how they're going to sell what little tobacco they have this year.  Last year we saw much of the leadership of our farm groups poor mouth contracting then run like pigs to get to the trough first.  What kind of leadership is that?  Tobacco is the only crop we grow that has some protection left for the grower.  Every other grower in America would give their right arm to have what we have and what are we doing, we're getting ready to throw it away because itís every man for himself.

Tobacco companies say they still support the program.  Don't believe that for a minute!  Only one company last year used government graders, the rest are going to use their buyers to tell you how much your tobacco is worth.  What a joke, the same people who we've had to bribe with gifts, cash and who knows what just to buy our crop in the past are still going to have their hands out, just at a different place.  We're getting ready to let the companies, some who've been convicted of crimes in the past, pat us on the back, tell us they want to be our friends then cheat us like they've done everyone else they could until they got caught.  The companies themselves aren't bad, just some of the people in the companies are bad.  The problem is, the ones who are calling the shots now all came from the same place, that place where folks always had their hand out just to buy our crop.  The companies have got us where they want us now, itís going to be like shooting fish in a barrel. 

We don't deserve a tobacco program if we arenít willing to stand up for it and I donít see anyone standing up.  We need a buyout now!  Why, because our farm leadership doesn't have the guts to stand up to what's about to happen.  Half of our so-called leaders are using their position to get in the contract line first, the other half are running around like chickens with their heads cut off doing nothing.  What will our quota be worth when the auction is gone and all tobacco is contracted.  I'm sure we'll get paid good while there's still an auction, but when that's gone and there's no way to get price support, what's going to keep the companies from saying, a $1.10 is all we're going to pay, take of leave it!  What's our quota going to be worth then?  A big fat nothing.

Maybe this commission can help, no one else seems to be able to or want to.  Us growers are our own worst enemies.  Most of us are stupid enough to believe that we'll get treated special with a contract or believe, if we contract as long as our neighbors don't, there'll be an auction.  That's kind of like when we all get together at the store and say we won't pay higher rent.  We all know what happens.  This commission needs to do something quick, the shoe is getting ready to drop and it's going to be too late soon.