Phillip Morris International cuts contracts with dozens of No. KY farmers

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

GLENCOE, KY (FOX19)  - For Mike Haddox, tobacco farming isn't just a job, it's a way of life. It's a family tradition he's grown for the last 33 years, and since 1999, Haddox has only sold his tobacco crops to Philip Morris International (PMI). Last Tuesday, the company ended that relationship with three sentences on a mass-mailed postcard.

"I would expect some kind of reason or at least a signature or something of who this came from," Haddox said. "I was at a loss for thoughts. This was my life. My thing was what was I going to do in the future? "

And he's not alone.

"I've gotten probably a hundred phone calls from other farmers," Haddox said. "Nobody knows what to do. Who to call."

Haddox said his original contract was for 650,000 pounds of tobacco a year. In 2008, the amount was cut to 450,000 pounds.

"And I expected a cut this year, but a zero compared to 450,000 pounds," Haddox said. "I can't adjust to that."

Haddox's son M.J. Agreed. He's worked alongside his father for the last 20 years.

"This is the only thing I've known," M.J. Haddox said. "I thought that I could keep on building and the way we was going, it was real good. I would have never expected anything like this to happen. and for them to just come out and say, we're cutting you. That's just not farmer friendly."

Philip Morris International is based in Switzerland. We couldn't speak with a spokesman because of the time difference at the time this report was filed. Philip Morris International is a separate company from Philip Morris USA. Tobacco growers have had the opportunity to seek contracts with either company for several years. Philip Morris USA had no connection to these particular farmers in Northern Kentucky.

Haddox said he's called several representatives from PMI, but no one has given him the answer to his biggest question: why me?

"One blames it on the other one," Haddox said. "Last I heard, this come out of Europe. The decision was out of Europe. That's beyond me."

Haddox and nearly 200 other farmers operate out of a receiving station in Carollton, Ky. Each farmer has an individual contract with PMI. Haddox said the contracts are typically renewed each winter. He said he knew something wasn't right, when he still hadn't received his contract last month.

Haddox said PMI has told local growers the company needed to cut their tobacco crops from Kentucky by 150 million pounds this year. Haddox said that adds up to about a $300 million cut in revenue from the entire state. Affected growers are allowed to try to sell their crops at other receiving stations in the region or to other distributors.

"Tobacco is my life and a lot of other people's life," said Haddox. "Not only people that's directly connected on the farm, but the whole community. And within the state of Kentucky. This is a big blow to the whole state."

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