But for those who chose to remain in the game, the deregulation made it hard to turn a profit. Within a year, the price of tobacco had dropped from $1.98 a pound to $1.50. And with no price guarantees and substantial shipping costs to get their product to the nearest market, farmers risked incurring significant losses.
For many growers, the prospect of starting over with a different crop or even a whole new business proved less appealing than simply cashing out. “There’s some truth to the saying ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,’” notes Duckett. “Unfortunately, a lot of that land [in Buncombe County] is growing septic tanks right now.”