05/20/05 — Tobacco buyout sign-ups on schedule

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Tobacco buyout sign-ups on schedule

By Turner Walston
Published in News on May 20, 2005 1:45 PM

Only a handful of Wayne County tobacco farmers and quota holders have yet to sign up for the Tobacco Transition Payment Program, said Rick Tharrington, the executive director of the county's Farm Service Agency.

Farmers and quota holders have until June 17 to sign up for the buyout program, which pays growers $3 per pound and quota holders $7 per pound.

Tharrington said about 20 Wayne County farmers still have not signed up. Farmers and quota holders who do not sign up this year can still do so next year but they will not receive payments for this year.

Although computer problems initially slowed sign-ups, Tharrington said he believes everyone eligible to sign up for the buyout payments will have done so by the deadline.

Tharrington said his office did not receive the necessary software to process payment applications until the sign-up period was well under way. At present, his staff is still transferring manual applications taken during that period to the computer system.

"We're still in the process of trying to load these contracts while still servicing these appointments," Tharrington said.

The Farm Service Agency is producing more contracts than were originally expected, Tharrington said. "We thought there were going to be 4,500," he said. He now anticipates there will be close to 8,000 contracts by the time the deadline arrives.

At the same time, the office is continuing to deal with other crop program sign-ups, Tharrington noted.

"We're facing several other programs at the same time, and it's been challenging," he said.

Tharrington said he had initially hoped to have all the tobacco sign-ups in the system and verified. But the delay in receiving the software may not allow for extra time to review the contracts, he said.

Tharrington said the most common question asked by farmers and quota holders is when the checks will arrive.

"The answer now is still sometime between June 17 and Sept. 30," he said, adding that farmers and quota holders who choose to have their money come through an electronic direct deposit might help speed payments.