|Washington Post photo by Matt McClain|
"The uncertainty is endangering individual livelihoods, not just of growers but of the workers who earn off-season dollars in the processing plants," Abrams reports. "It’s also threatening rural communities, which have long been buoyed by tobacco money, and exacerbating the divide between them and North Carolina’s booming urban areas."
In 2018, the Trump administration announced billions in tariffs on Chinese goods. China volleyed back with its own tariffs, including on American tobacco products. China was the top customer for North Carolina tobacco; since the trade war began, farmers have lost about $250 million, but weren't eligible for federal bailout payments like most other farmers, Abrams reports.
Farmers are trying to turn to alternatives, but other crops don't bring in the kind of profit tobacco did, and many are struggling. In North Carolina, 16 family farms filed for bankruptcy in 2019. "The economic troubles ripple outward; one of the region’s biggest private employers, Vidant Health, announced possible layoffs a month ago. Economists have estimated that every dollar earned from tobacco results in almost $4 in new spending — on farm equipment, fertilizer, labor and other purchases in the community," Abrams reports.