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KNOXVILLE – Tennessee’s tobacco market opens Nov. 29. But the amount of tobacco that the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows to be grown and sold each year has dropped nearly 40 percent in Tennessee since 1997.

The USDA sets quotas based on how much tobacco companies say they will buy, export levels and the number of pounds left over from the previous year.

Dr. Donald Fowlkes, a tobacco specialist at the University of
Tennessee, said the quota drop hasn’t been felt yet because
farmers plagued with crop diseases and bad weather already were
producing below that level.

“We had almost a 29 percent cut in quota in 1999, which was significant of course, but in 1999 our acreage is basically unchanged from a year ago,” Fowlkes said. “In fact, being in our situation is kind of nice when the USDA cuts quotas because it provides us with a bit of a buffer.”

Tobacco was Tennessee’s top cash crop last year at $232 million.
Tennessee is the nation’s second-largest burley producing state.