Tobacco glare magnified during election year

Sometimes it's best to cut down the heat on the burner and let the food “come to itself.” Billy Harrelson of Bladen County, N.C., passed on that thought to me and my lovely wife, Linda, as she alternated stirring pots of collards and pinto beans at the Farmer's Day recently.

Drawing the analogy back to things agricultural, Harrelson just said a nugget of wisdom when you apply it to the tobacco buyout.

In an election year, it looked hopeless that Congress would get around to a tobacco buyout, much less pass it.

The heat was on in the fall of 2003 when efforts failed to materialize. The importance of passing a tobacco buyout bill before an election year was the whole politics of the thing.

Tobacco, after all, was a dirty word to many legislators outside the traditional tobacco belt.

With the spotlight of an election year, the glare on tobacco would be magnified.

Then came along a must-pass corporate reform bill. North Carolina legislators, including U.S. Reps. Mike McIntyre and now-Sen. Richard Burr, seized on the opportunity to attach the tobacco buyout to the bill that eventually passed both Houses and was signed by the president.

That was the pivotal point where the tobacco buyout “came to itself.”

The prep work had already been done by growers and their representatives.

In the pot was an interesting mixture of health advocates, growers, legislators outside of the tobacco belt and tobacco-state senators and congressmen.

Earlier, situations had conspired to leave the Depression era tobacco program dying on the vine.

About three years ago, a wise, elderly farmer took me on ride in his pickup down to the Yadkin River. There, Henry Sink Sr., an octogenarian no-till tobacco farmer, said he knew it was just a matter of time for the tobacco program to end. For him, the signpost was the beginning of widespread contracting. (Mr. Sink is recuperating after a fall earlier this year.)

The heat on tobacco raged over a period of years. Tobacco can take the heat, but too much can ruin the cure.

Back to Bladen County, N.C., and Harrelson's analogy about turning down the heat and letting the cooking food “come to itself.”

One of the best pieces of advice is on a bag of rice. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat. Let sit for a while.

Good advice for most things that face us on a day-to-day basis; especially good for the more important things in life.

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