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Informal Survey Results from a Southside Tobacco Market

Farm Business Management Update, October 2000

By Dixie Watts Reaves

During a recent sale in South Boston, only a small percentage of tobacco was going to the coop, and producers were relatively pleased with the day's tobacco sale. A brief survey of a small number of tobacco producers was conducted during the sale, and results are presented here. Only ten producers were surveyed, so the results cannot necessarily be taken as representative of producers as a whole. Nonetheless, the results provide interesting insights into some issues and decisions currently facing producers.

Those surveyed were producing an average of 9.95 acres on land that they owned and an additional 8.5 acres (on average) on rented land. The range in acreage was 0 to 35 acres for owned acres and 3 to 20 for rented.

Questions asked producers how they had been spending their settlement dollars to date. Respondents were given seven choices, plus the ability to write in additional uses, and were asked to indicate all that applied. Fifty percent of producers had used some of their settlement dollars to pay down debt, and 50 percent had made improvements to existing farm facilities. Forty percent had invested in new farm items. Thirty percent had invested in retirement, while 20 percent had purchased non-farm-related items for the family and 20 percent had increased their general savings account balances. No one had invested in non-farm enterprises to date.

When asked how many barns were being used this summer, respondents reported an average of 3.9 with a range from 1 to 8. Of that number, an average of 1 (ranging from 0 to 3) had been retrofitted.

Of those responding, 90 percent reported that they would vote to keep the current tobacco program in place when it comes up for a vote next year. The remaining 10 percent do not plan to vote. No one indicated a plan to vote out the program.

The average age of respondents was 52.4, ranging from 34 to74, with 90 percent of respondents being male.

Again, with just a small number of producers surveyed, these results are not guaranteed to be representative of all of Virginia's tobacco farmers. However, the survey does provide some insight into current uses of tobacco settlement dollars, the prevalence of retrofitting, and the intent for the program vote, all of which have implications for the future of Virginia's tobacco economy.

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