Virginia farmers are harvesting what many say is one of their best tobacco crops ever but there is uncertainty about market conditions facing the leaf.
Harvesting is under way in Southside Virginia. Meanwhile, auctions on the state's nine markets for flue-cured tobacco are scheduled to begin Wednesday for carryover leaf from last year and Aug. 13 for this year's crop. The Georgia and Florida markets also open Wednesday.
Some officials are worried that turmoil surrounding the federal tobacco program could cause the market opening to be delayed. And there are fears a disastrous opening could force the markets to close.
Several legislative programs to save the troubled tobacco program are trapped in Congress. A plan to reduce price supports through rebates has been stymied by Agriculture Secretary John Block.
So there is a good possibility the season will open with the same conditions that contributed to poor sales during the last three years.
"It's disheartening. There is nothing you can do about it," said Wylie Farrar, a Mecklenburg County farmer who is growing 35 acres of tobacco near Baskerville.
"If nothing happens to this crop, it will be the best one I ever had. But we've got to take what people offer."