While national policy aims to curtail cigarette smoking, a Town of Wilson man has been harvesting some of the 30 acres of burley tobacco he planted last spring in an arrangement with Joseph "Smokin' Joe" Anderson, who sells merchandise, including cigarettes, on the Tuscarora Reservation.
Except for research purposes that ended nearly 30 years ago, tobacco has not been grown in Western New York in recent decades.
The grower is Michael Martin of Willow Road, an electrician now employed by Anderson. Anderson operates three gasoline, tobacco and general merchandise stores on the Tuscarora Reservation, on Route 31, on Indian Hill, and on Upper Mountain Road.
One of his employees said Anderson has been manufacturing his own cigarettes for 2 1/2 years. His stores sell state tax-free name brands for $15.25 per carton and other brands, including the one he manufactures, for half the price. The new part of Anderson's cigarette venture is the use of home-grown burley tobacco.
"Anybody is free to grow tobacco," said Douglas Richardson, deputy director of the Peanut and Tobacco unit of the U.S Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency. "But if the tobacco is to be sold, the grower must comply with a quota, and Martin or Anderson has no quota." Richardson said that the penalty for selling non-quota burley tobacco is $1.44 per pound, 75 percent of its open market price, plus another 2 cents to cover costs. Richardson estimated that a planted acre harvests about 1,800 pounds of marketable cigarette tobacco.
Anderson declined to speak on the record, but did say that he is well aware of the penalty costs. How much of the Martin-grown tobacco will be sold has not been determined, an employee said. Wilson residents said some of the harvested tobacco already has been trucked off the farm.
One destination might be a Lancaster, Pa., facility where the tobacco would be de-stemmed.