A worker rides through early morning fog on the Bucheister brothers' farm at the start of a day of tobacco planting. John and Pete Bucheister own Planters Tobacco Warehouse in Upper Marlboro, Md., one of three auctions houses left in Southern Maryland.
After nearly three centuries of being the most profitable crop in the state of Maryland, tobacco production may soon die off entirely. The Maryland Tobacco Buyout is forcing multigeneration tobacco farmers to abandon their craft and passion, making tobacco farming a thing of the past. The Buyout is a government program to "transition Maryland farmers out of the $100 million per year tobacco business". The buyout promises each farmer ten annual payments of $1.00 per pound on their annual harvest from 1996-1998. Of the 1,017 certified tobacco growers, 863 have applied for the buyout.
Maryland is so far only one of four states adequately trying to reduce smoking, especially among the young, spending $14 million before the end of 2003 on a statewide advertising campaign with the slogan "Smoking Stops Here".
The end of this economic and historical mainstay will mark a watershed change in the character of the state. Ironically, while a long standing way of life will be destroyed, tens of thousands of young lives may be saved.