08/08/05 — Tobacco acreage up in 2005

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Tobacco acreage up in 2005

By Turner Walston
Published in News on August 8, 2005 1:50 PM

Wayne County farmers planted nearly 800 more acres of tobacco in the first year after the end of the quota system, officials said.

The federal government bought out quota holders last fall. This is the first time in more than 70 years that farmers have been free to sell as much tobacco as they wish. Most now contract directly with tobacco companies to sell their produce. For decades, farmers sold their tobacco at government-sponsored auctions.

Wayne growers planted 5,736 acres of tobacco this year, said Rick Tharrington, the executive director of the county Farm Service Agency. Last year, under the quota system that limited the amount of tobacco that could be sold, Wayne farmers planted 4,962 acres.

Overall, farmers in the county planted slightly more than 157,000 acres of all crops. That figure was about 5,000 acres less than a year ago.

About one-third of the fields are planted in soybeans, Tharrington said. Wayne has almost 58,000 acres planted in soybeans, a slight decrease from last year.

"Soybean acres fluctuate back and forth between corn acres," Tharrington said, adding that they may be down due to the recent soybean rust scare, but "it's not been the widespread problem yet that we thought it would be," he said of the scare.

Wayne farmers also planted more peanuts this year. Only 58 acres of peanuts were planted in 2004 but that figure jumped to 846 this year. Tharrington attributed the marked increase to the elimination of the peanut quota program two years ago and increasing diversification by growers.

"Have more than one crop, that way you can spread your gains and losses in the marketplace over a wide area," he said.

Corn acreage was down from 27,162 last year to 25,714 this year.

"That sounds like a lot," Tharrington said, but that's a normal fluctuation."

Wayne farmers planted about a thousand more acres of cotton this year than last year. There are 23,679 acres planted in cotton, compared to 22,102 in 2004.

Other notable crop acreages included 23,579 acres of wheat, 1,483 acres of sweet potatos, 1,022 of rye and 927 of millet.