ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri farmers report they're struggling to sell tobacco after Philip Morris stopped purchasing the crops last year.
Farmers told the St. Joseph News-Press that they're unsure where to sell the tobacco and might have to seek buyers across state lines. That will likely increase costs.
Last year, tobacco mogul Philip Morris USA announced it would no longer purchase Missouri tobacco.
Louis Smither, co-owner of the New Deal Tobacco Warehouse, said smoking bans, campaigns to cut tobacco use and increased cigarette taxes have lowered demand.
"Those are the causes, and this is the effect -- the small tobacco farmer suffers," Smither said. "We knew about Philip Morris about a year ago, and we still don't know where we're going to be sending our tobacco. This'll be an awkward and strange undertaking."
Smither said small farmers are being pinched.
With extra transportation costs, farmers can expect to get about $1 a pound minus transportation expenses.
Smither said it represents a sizable loss, even for farmers who don't rely heavily on tobacco.
"Even if tobacco only makes up 10 percent of what you grow, you still have to replenish those costs associated with that," Smither said.
Hal Swaney, president of Burley Tobacco of Missouri Inc. and a tobacco farmer himself, said most tobacco is curing in barns and that farmers aren't in a hurry to prepare tobacco for market -- especially with the current moist weather.
"Scary thing is, no one can guarantee anything," Swaney said. "And it just figures we'd have a really good tobacco year across the country in a climate with decreasing demand. It's just not painting a rosy picture for tobacco growers."
Swaney said there's a possibility of finding buyers in Kentucky or Tennessee. He hopes buyers will be found sometime in late October to early November.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)