The increase in tobacco growing in the state is linked to an increase in local demand. A hurricane that hit North Carolina negatively impacted tobacco crops there in 2010 and left consumers looking elsewhere. This year, heavy rainfall could skew production totals and shift demand elsewhere.
“So this year comes along and not only in Georgia, but all the way up through South Carolina and North Carolina, the crop is hurt by excessive rainfall,” Moore said. “North Carolina is reporting about a 25 percent shortfall, South Carolina is at least that much, and then Georgia is probably going to be in the neighborhood of a 40 to 45 percent shortfall.”
There are about 150 farmers growing tobacco in Georgia, with is a steep decline from around 1,000 growers from about 25 years ago, Moore said. He added that although there are fewer people growing tobacco in Georgia, the size of the farms has gotten larger. Some farmers say the labor-intensive nature of tobacco farming likely steers farmers toward growing other crops.
“I don’t see new growers jumping into it, because there is no guarantee,” said Daniel Johnson, of Alma. “You have to have a lot of equipment, and it’s a lot of expensive equipment. … You don’t go out and buy new stuff. I’ve been in a survival mode for 10 years.”