The door prizes at the Maryland Tobacco Growers Association's recent Harvester toy tractor, two gallons of annual meeting included one-half ton of hydrated lime, one International outside paint and a 75-foot section of lawn hose.
There were about 40 tobacco growers from Maryland's five tobacco-growing counties, including four older men who were charter members of the organization in 1919, in the Plantation Room of the Martha Washington Motel in Waldorf. The association is a farmer's cooperative with headquarters in Cheltenham in Southern Prince George's county and five satellite stores selling feed and farm equipment and, after the market season, unsold tobacco.
At the annual membership meeting, there were fried chicken and cole slaw, free Ronsil lighters, and free cigarette samples at every place setting. Almost no one smoked.
Even T. Jack Cross, the general manager, acknowledged privately and somewhat defensively, that he had quit smoking eight years ago "as a nuisance thing." To the assembled group, however, Cross said, "No one has established tobacco smoking is directly related to cancer," and he declared war on the American Cancer Society's campaign to reduce tobacco consumption 17 per cent in five years.
"The Tobacco Institute and all forces are enlisting support to spread the word and combat this American Cancer Society program," Cross said. "We're having enough problems with labor and weather. We don't need the harassment."
"You know," added Y. D. Hance, incredulous, "they want to kill smoking and chewing tobacco and make marijuana legal." Hance, a Calvert County tobacco farmer universally known by his first two initials, who also happens to be Maryland's secretary of agriculture, is "someone who talks our language," Cross said apapprovingly.
"I'm a smoker," Y.D. said without shame, "but it offends me when regulations are being passed to sit in the back of the bus, and that's what we were talking about."
"You would think the American people would be grateful," he said. "Taxes from tobacco sales amounted to $6 billion the other year. Over 200 years," Y.D. boldly asserted, "the tobacco industry has paid more in tax revenue than any other agricultural commodity. If tobacco's bad, other people shouldn't be enjoying the benefits."