h786-8-1100x823(Mountain XPress) Few crops have been as central to North Carolina’s economy and culture — or as controversial — as tobacco. Historically, its high market value and the relative ease of growing it made tobacco a staple for many Western North Carolina farmers. As late as 2002, 1,995 mountain farms grew tobacco. The crop’s prevalence, however, was closely tied to the long-standing quota system, which regulated where it could be grown and set a guaranteed price range each year.

Significant government involvement with the industry began during the Great Depression, but changing times and social attitudes eventually caught up with the program. Increasing health concerns and lawsuits ultimately led to the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, which restricted tobacco advertising and gave states substantial payments to offset Medicare expenses and fund anti-smoking programs. In conjunction with other changes, this accelerated a continuing decline in sales of American-grown tobacco.

Read the full report, including a history of the crop in NC, HERE>