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[Begin Tape #1, Side #1]

KLEE: . . . , being conducted for the Kentucky Oral History Commission. The interview is being held at Brown's Warehouse on the south end of , and I'm John Klee conducting the interview. It is October 4, and it's about in the afternoon. [pause in tape] The following is an unrehearsed interview for the Kentucky Oral History Commission with James Bradley Brown by John Klee on . The interview's being conducted at Brown's Warehouse on the south end of . . . at the south end of . Mr. Brown, just to kind of start, tell me a little bit about your background: where you were raised, you know, have . . . have your parents been in farming?

BROWN: My parents started farming when . . . in 1927 and they started in the north end of near a little town called Lewisburg on the , and runs through the north end of . The river got their crop three out of five years [chuckle] and when this happened, they moved to the south end of the county away from in 1933 or thereabouts . . . `32 to `33 and they . . . are at the same location that they were then. They're still living, and they're both seventy-five years old and I farm with my dad and my brother and I've always farmed. I'm thirty-six years old, so I was born in 1949, and I've lived and worked on a farm all my life, except for one year of college, and I came back home and went to farming. Now, what . . . what kind of farming operation were you raised on?

BROWN: We are absolutely called a general farmer. We raise corn, soybeans, wheat, barley. We've got cattle, hogs, and we raise two kinds of tobacco. We have a third kind of tobacco base on our farm, dark-fired tobacco, but we . . . as of right now, do not raise that type of tobacco; we lease it out.

KLEE: Now as you . . . as you drive around this area, you see that there . . . there are big, large farming operations. You can do some extensive farming around here. How important is tobacco down . . . down in this area?

BROWN: Tobacco still pays the mortgage on all the farms. If it wasn't for tobacco, I don't know what we'd be doing really. Of course, we have got extensive farming in this area. We can raise anything. We can . . . I've been told that we can raise more and different variety of crops than anywhere in the world except for the in . We can raise . . . you name it, we can raise it. The only thing we can't raise [inaudible]. And things like that, so, we can raise everything, but tobacco is still the thing that brings in the most money and what Logan County's economy . . . farm economy is still geared to because we have three different types of tobacco here, and even though it doesn't seem like that Logan County, according to a lot of state statistics . . . because most of the time, that's just based on burley tobacco . . . when you have three different kind of tobacco, a lot of tobacco is raised in . . . in Logan County. A lot.

KLEE: Now you said that's the . . . that's the crop that pays the mortgage. Is that because of the support system? You know what's coming in and . . . and kind of . . . base plans on it?

BROWN: Right. I can't say enough for the tobacco support system. It's the system that has worked . . . where other farm . . . well, other farm subsidies and programs have not worked, the tobacco support system has always worked and has always been a minimum cost to the government.

KLEE: Let me get into some of the . . . now the three types of tobacco are?

BROWN: Dark air-cured. Dark fire-cured, and of course burley.

KLEE: And burley. The sources . . . it is kind of curious that, you know, you got all three tobacco types here. Is that a remnant from the beginning of the program? Were there . . . were those . . .

BROWN: Those . . . the dark fire-cured and dark air-cured have been grown here for generations. Even before burley was . . . was even . . . back during . . . when this country was first being started, they shipped tobacco from this area down to Louis-, Louisiana on the Mississippi River for chewing purposes and course smoking didn't come . . . burley tobacco . . . and that's what burley tobacco is used for: cigarettes mainly. Let's see. It was, I guess, in 1920's or 30's before burley and smoking cigarettes started. Well, chewing tobacco has been doing on in this area for generations and generations, and they . . . course during the Civil War, they . . . the Southern soldiers traded the Northern Soldiers, you know, cigarettes . . . I mean chewing tobacco for coffee. And so this area has always been known for its chewing tobacco and the high quality dark air-cured dark fire-cured that we raise around here.

KLEE: Now both of those types of tobacco are primarily used for the chewing and plug and . . .

BROWN: Chewing . . . chewing tobacco. Your twists and your plugs and course a lot of pipe tobacco . . . well, dark air- cured and dark fire-cured is in a blend that goes into the pipe tobacco and then you have . . . got some . . . in the last few years, the advent of wet snuff. And we've always had . . . had your powder snuff and now we . . . they've come with the wet snuff and it has been a tremendous boost to dark air-cured and dark fire-cured tobacco because that's the primary things that go into your wet snuff.

KLEE: Now, wet snuff, I'm not . . . I've never heard it called that.

BROWN: Skoal.

KLEE: Oh, that's the kind. That's the . . .

BROWN: Skoal and . . . let's see. Hawkin snuff and Skoal and Ban- . . .

KLEE: Bandits?

BROWN: . . . Bandits and all those. U. S. Tobacco Company is one that really started it and then your Conwood Corporation has picked up on it and several others, different companies have picked up on the wet snuff and it's . . . it's . . . basically all it is, is ground up tobacco with your flavoring put on it, and you just put "a pinch between your cheek and gum" as they say. And course your dry snuff was snuffed up the nose or put in the . . . in the mouth, either one. But this is basically . . . basically it's a form of chewing tobacco.

KLEE: It's really . . . and it's caught on and stimulated the dark tobacco . . .

BROWN: All you have to do . . . you don't chew it actually. You just let it sit in your mouth and get the flavor of the tobacco.

KLEE: Now all that dark tobacco that you're talking about, about the air-cured, the fire-cured, it is based on poundage and . . . it is not?

BROWN: No. Dark air-cured and dark fire-cured is still on acreage.

KLEE: It is? Okay.

BROWN: Uh-huh. And it . . . just simply, each farm has got acreage that was. . . past history of the farm, when the tobacco program was put into effect. And they had a history of what that . . . each individual farm was produc-, producing, as far as acreage when the tobacco program went into effect, and that's the acreage they got. And course now, it's regulated just like the . . . like your burley's regulated and they . . . we . . . if we need a cut, well everybody takes a percentage of your acreage cut or if it is increased, you get an increase too.

KLEE: Now are there government inspectors that go out and check the . . . the acreage?

BROWN: Yeah.

KLEE: Do they physically cut down the tobacco like they used to in the burley?

BROWN: Right. It can happen. Now you go in each spring and certify that you've got your acreage out, or how many acres you've got out until what you're allowed. And then myself being a tobacco warehouseman, I get personally measured every year because they wanna make sure that . . . it's no secret I don't guess that a warehouseman, if he so desired, could get rid of it, you know, a whole lot easier than our average farmer. And . . . but they come out and measure mine every year. Course I'm tickled to death that they do. And everybody else is measured by airplane.

KLEE: I see.

BROWN: And if there is a discrepancy from the aerial view, then they'll come out and personally measure it, and see if . . . a lot of times two or three tomato rows will look just . . . right beside the tobacco, will look like tobacco, you know, and so they have to come out and check several people's tobacco, but most everybody knows that it's aerial measured and they . . .

KLEE: Stay pretty close?

BROWN: . . . stay real close to the . . . the allotment that they're supposed to have.

KLEE: Now is it . . . is there . . . is there a different support system [inaudible]?

BROWN: It's basically about the same support system. It's . . . it's not as highly supported. I have a support card around here somewhere. Do you wanna . . .

KLEE: Yeah. [pause in tape] Now there . . . it's graded . . . looks like the same way, same type grades.

BROWN: Um, hmm.

KLEE: D1R or . . .

BROWN: Um, hmm. A1F. Okay. I'll explain that if you want me to.

KLEE: Yeah, please, uh-huh.

BROWN: Okay. Basically, the dark air-cured tobacco is . . . a whole lot more emphasis is put on quality than in . . . in burley because your . . . like a Grade A1F is positively the best grade that you can get on dark air-cured tobacco. The reason the quality has to be there, that A1F tobacco is used for wrapping your plug tobacco. It hasn't . . . it cannot not have any holes in it. It has to be smooth, it has to be pliable. Has to have extreme amount of elasticity in it. And . . . to wrap tobacco . . .

KLEE: So now there has to be . . . right. There has to be great care taken then when it's being prepared. Now would that . . . most of that be hand-tied then?

BROWN: Every bit of it is hand-tied. We cannot bale any dark air-cured tobacco, or dark fire-cured either, as far as . . . for chewing purposes. Now you . . . a lot of labor goes . . . I think a whole lot more labor goes into your dark tobaccos than your burley tobacco. The . . . maybe the demand is not there is the reason we don't receive as high a price for it. There's . . . but there's also other compensations. Burley tobacco, you plant it eighteen to twenty-two, twenty-four inches apart. Dark air-cured tobacco is planted thirty-six inches apart.

KLEE: Gee.

BROWN: And . . . and so therefore, you're not cutting near as many plants when you go to the field to cut as you are when you're cutting burley.

KLEE: Now the reason you separate them out farther is to get the better leaves?

BROWN: Well, you separate it out so . . . and top it down low. It's topped . . . where burley's topped, what? Twenty-four leaves maybe? And your . . . or more. Your dark air-cured tobacco and dark fire-cured tobacco is topped sixteen leaves. Fourteen to sixteen leaves.

KLEE: So now when you go out in the field to cut that, it's not usually shoulder high?

BROWN: No, it's . . . it's about that . . . [chuckle] what's that? Three foot?

KLEE: Three . . .

BROWN: Three, three and a half feet high? And the leaves are extremely large because you've got it topped down low and they're extremely thick because you have to . . . for . . . you want a thick, smooth tobacco.

KLEE: Now what's that top . . . what . . . last year, for example, what did top grade of the . . . of the dark cured bring?

BROWN: All right, your A1F's, which were very few, very few, they brought a dollar seventy-three. A dollar over the grade. A2F's, which is . . . you put support price on it, is a dollar sixty-six. They brought a dollar sixty-seven. You . . . basically it . . . about a dollar sixty was the . . .

KLEE: The average?

BROWN: . . . the average tops on your dark air-cured tobacco. Now, on your dark fire-cured, I . . . like I say, I have raised it, but I'm not raising it at the present on our farm, so I couldn't tell you exactly how much that brought last year, but it brings more than your dark air-cured because it's a whole lot more work to it, and see, because the dark fired tobacco has to be fired for forty-five days, where . . . where you put sawdust and wood in the barn after you house your tobacco in the barn, and then you smoke that tobacco for forty-five days. So you have to go in there and put sawdust in your barns about every other days or so and . . . and it's a lot of work too.

KLEE: Oh, I think so.

BROWN: And staying with it.

KLEE: Let me ask you about this dark air-cured while we're talking about it now. When you start out with that, is it . . . do you buy a special kind of seed?

BROWN: Yes. We've got about three or four different variations of your dark air-cured tobacco. Most everyone around here grows the 160 variety.

KLEE: Is that . . . is that called 160 or . . .

BROWN: Yeah, I think . . . I think it's a variety. Then you've got 165 and then you've got a 182, and a 100 and a 101.

KLEE: Now most of this . . . can you buy these . . . out on . . .

BROWN: We've got one producer of seed for this variety of tobacco.

KLEE: Is that right? Where's that at?

BROWN: One producer. Mr. Newton who lives at .

KLEE: I see.

BROWN: And he's the only one that I know of that is producing seed for dark air-cured tobacco right now, um, hmm.

KLEE: So you've got a different seed. Plant preparation in the beds and all that . . .

BROWN: Basically the same. Basically the same as burley. Only difference, you . . . the dark air-cured and dark fire-cured is a lot darker type tobacco. It's real, real dark green . . .

KLEE: When it . . .

BROWN: . . . when it . . .

KLEE: . . . in the beds?

BROWN: . . . Uh-huh. On the beds and in the field growing whereas burley's a light-colored yellow-green and . . . but your dark air-cured and dark fired is a real dark green.

KLEE: Now what about problems with this kind of tobacco? Are they similar? Do . . . for example, is there blue mold in this tobacco or . . .

BROWN: Blue mold . . .

KLEE: . . . black shank?

BROWN: . . . blue mold does not affect dark fired and dark air-cured as bad. It can affect it, but not as bad as burley. But we have a lot of rust that . . . which is a fungus. It just . . . brown spots come in the tobacco and therefore we call that a rust. And we have extreme problems with . . . with these brown spots in wet weather, coming on dark air-cured and dark fire-cured tobacco. And if this happens, basically the only thing you can do is cut it. And cut it as quite as possible. And hang it in the barn and cure it up as quick as possible. And that's the only way you'll stop the . . . the brown spots from multiplying and . . . and ruining your whole crop because, like I said before, quality is a whole lot more important in this than it is in your burley.

KLEE: Right. Well, people . . . as you said, you know, when you buy a plug, you can see the wrapper and you have to . . . guess have to have that quality.

BROWN: And if it rusts there, those holes will fall out. And it will not make good chewing tobacco.

KLEE: Let me back up a little bit and talk about the start of the season. Now, do you . . . are you working in both kinds of tobacco about simultaneously then?

BROWN: Right. We . . . our plant beds are . . . we just sow every how many hundred yards of burley we need and however many hundred yards of one sucker, and how many hundred yards of fired you need. And . . .

KLEE: And you use the . . . you use the term "one-sucker", which is another term for the . . .

BROWN: Dark air-cured tobacco.

KLEE: . . . dark air-cured.

BROWN: Technically the term dark air-cured means dark tobacco that's air-cured. And cured with just . . . basically your air and let it cure like burley cures.

KLEE: Right.

BROWN: And . . .

KLEE: So you use . . . which is the same kind of barn?

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: Try to good ventilation and . . .

BROWN: Right. And dark fire-cured is basically cured up with fire underneath the . . . the tobacco and smoke it and put it in a super-tight barn. The tighter the barn, the better it is, so you wanna hold all that smoke in the barn as long as possible so it'll get on the tobacco and it'll smell just like a country ham that's been smoked. And it's . . . it's . . . it smells extremely good.

KLEE: Well I've seen that term, you know, one-sucker, before.

BROWN: Right. That's the local term used for your dark air-cured tobacco and it's called . . . and it goes back to the days of when . . . when we had to pull the suckers off individually. Dark fire-cured tobacco, you had to sucker it four times before it was ready to cut, and you suckered it from top to bottom. Each leaf where it come out from the stalk, would have a sucker each time. Dark air-cured would have a sucker come in the top four leaves first, and you'd pull those off, and then the next four leaves would have suckers, and the next four leaves would have suckers, and then you would have what you call ground suckers. And they would come like that. But they would not come back on the stalk after you pulled them off that one place.

KLEE: So really you only suckered it once?

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: Each . . . each leaf?

BROWN: Each leaf would be suckered one time. And so that's where the term come from. And . . .

KLEE: When you're growing it, does that . . . does that still . . . where this year we had a terrible time with suckers. I don't know if it was the . . . the dope they were using on it or what, but now is . . . is there less of a sucker problem with the air-cured? The dark air-cured?

BROWN: Dark air-cured is . . . well it . . . we crea-, basically like we . . . you do burley or anything anymore. We come with a product that will kill the suckers on contact. We run the . . . [inaudible] alcohol substance down the plant and this will burn the suckers and kill them. And that will control the suckers for about three weeks. And then we come with a systemic, which is MH30 and spray on it, and that will control them for another two, three weeks. Basically, all we want to . . . our sucker control to last us about five weeks because you start cutting dark air-cured tobacco after it's been . . . the bloom has been pulled out of it or topped, what we call topping it, about four weeks, in four to five weeks is your prime cutting time on the dark air-cured tobacco.

KLEE: I'm just curious about, you know, in this part of the state, how that . . . how that filters out. You-all set around Memorial Day or a little before? Earlier than that, probably.

BROWN: We try . . . like to set somewhere around the tenth of May. This year we were through by the thirteenth of May which is extremely early. We had done about nineteen acres of tobacco, and we . . . we were done by the thirteenth of May so . . . but we can set all the way up through the Fourth of July and still make a crop then.

KLEE: I see.

BROWN: Which is extremely late, but I have seen it done.

KLEE: Now what does that . . . that's a long range there, so that puts you up to about . . . you're cutting in August all the way through into October, I guess.

BROWN: We started the twenty-ninth of July this year, cutting . . . and was done . . . oh . . . let's see. We were done around the third of September.

KLEE: Oh, so that's a long process for that much tobacco.

BROWN: Um, hmm. About a month. A little over. Most of the time, we're in . . . we're cutting tobacco for about six weeks. And . . . and we . . . we cut . . . usually cut our dark air-cured first because of quality. We definitely want the quality to be there in the dark air-cured. The burley we'll cut last because we like to leave it out there six weeks after topping at least. And so we can get as heavy a dark air- . . . burley tobacco as we possibly can raise.

KLEE: I see. Now the relationship on your farm, and in the county . . . you know, I don't know. Obviously can't get anything exact, but what's the . . . is there twice as much burley as the air-cured? You know, white burley as compared to the dark tobacco? Is it half and half or . . .

BROWN: There is . . . there is more dark air-cured tobacco raised in than burley. I would say it's about two-thirds more dark.

KLEE: Of the dark.

BROWN: Dark air-cured and dark fire-cured. Or maybe three-fourths more of the dark than the burley. We're not in the basic burley belt where we sell a lot of burley tobacco here on the warehouse floor, and . . . and probably sell more burley tobacco than we sell of our air-cured. And . . . but there's been a practice started in the last fifteen years, I guess it has been, where the dark air-cured companies will go out in the country and buy the dark air-cured straight out of the barn and . . . and so it . . . it's not as much of it brought to the floor as . . . as . . . course and all the burley's brought to the warehouse to be sold, but your dark air-cured was . . . a lot of it is sold in the barn.

KLEE: Okay. I wasn't aware of that. Now do . . . now do they bypass then the grading system and everything?

BROWN: Right. They sure do. They still have to pay no-net cost on . . . on it, but . . .

KLEE: The farmer does, that is?

BROWN: Yeah, uh-huh, but it . . . and . . . because it has to be graded. The graders will have to look at that tobacco at some time or another and . . . because that's federal law.

KLEE: Right. But they might look at it after the company's already bought it.

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: Put the grade on it.

BROWN: Right. But . . . because you've got your DET regulations and all that that have to be followed no matter where that tobacco's bought. And . . . the reason . . . reason being for being in the barn . . . several years ago, dark air cured tobacco being harder to raise than burley, and they were not paying near the price that . . . that farmers thought they should, and the farmers' quit raising it. And they . . . they were making more money out of corn and soybeans so they just quite raising your dark air-cured tobacco. So it got to be a shortage of it. And so as one little company needed a lot of real prime air-cured tobacco to go overseas to the German company that he bought for. And he didn't think he was gonna be able to get it all on the floor and meet the competition, so he went out in the country and started buying.

KLEE: Now what . . . do you remember what company that was?

BROWN: Yeah. Tobacco Supply Company was the name of it. In . And then he was giving . . . a little premium for the real good tobacco and the farmers kind of thought it was a status symbol that they could sell their tobacco in the barn because this buyer come out and . . . and told them how good tobacco they had and he was gonna give them a penny or two more a pound, so they . . . they would sell to him and then . . . the price of tobacco didn't go up [inaudible] farmers. They could still make more money off of corn and soybeans, and it got to the point where companies were really hurting for tobacco. And it come a year where it was a drought or something happened, and . . . the company saw that there wasn't gonna be any . . . any tobacco on the . . . you know, it was gonna be a tremendous shortage. And all . . . well, not all of them, but a large percentage of companies went to the barn and started buying tobacco and that's . . . and now . . . now that's the way it stays because they . . . they've got their regular customers now that they go to.

[End Tape #1, Side #1]

[Begin Tape #1, Side #2]

KLEE: This is side two of a tape with James Bradley Brown. We were talking about the . . . the companies going right out to the barns. Is that true for both the dark . . . all the dark kinds of tobacco?

BROWN: Sure.

KLEE: The fire-cured and the air-cured?

BROWN: Um, hmm. It has . . . it . . . basically it was just one company's greed starting it and . . . and then the other companies, to meet competition, had to go out there, and . . . because of the shortage . . . short crops and shortage in the dark air-cured tobacco in certain years. Now some years, when there's an overabundance of tobacco, it's very little tobacco bought in the barn.

KLEE: What happens then? Do they bring it to the warehouse?

BROWN: They bring to the warehouse and it's a true auction. And then . . . then we'll have a drought or something like that'll happen, and . . . and one company will run out and buy a big bunch and . . . well, see, the dark air-cured area is so small that a company can send out three or four buyers in a couple of days, if a farmer is willing to sell it. Can buy a tremendous amount of tobacco in a couple of days, just riding through the country. And you . . . you've got an area of . . . of Robertson County, Tennessee . . . Simpson County, Kentucky . . . Logan County, Kentucky, Todd County, Kentucky . . . and basically you've got a few outlying counties like Butler County, Kentucky and Muhlenberg County, Kentucky that's got small bases in them, but basically those three counties raise most of the dark air-cured tobacco grown in the United States.

KLEE: I see.

BROWN: And a company can go out with three or four buyers and cover that area in a small period of time and buy up a tremendous amount of tobacco.

KLEE: Now the last few years, because of the . . . the new changes in the products, this tobacco has been pretty much in demand?

BROWN: Yes. It has. But as with burley, we . . . last year or so, they been importing dark air-cured tobacco into the United States and our products . . . they claim they can get it set down in their warehouses for a dollar a pound, and so therefore it makes our product go down in price.

KLEE: Now, does a pool get tobacco that doesn't bring the minimum price?

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: For the dark . . .

BROWN: Same thing as . . . as your burley tobacco. You've got like an A3F tobacco, the government support price on it is a dollar and sixty cents. So a company has to buy . . . pay . . . pay a dollar over that price. And our . . . our pool is called the Eastern Dark-Fired Association and you . . . you got a Western Dark-Fired Association. So it's . . . it's . . . your dark-fired tobacco covers a whole lot larger area than your dark air-cured. We've got a dark air-cured area in the western part of too, and that's around and that's called the Green River Air-Cured Area. And it consists of, I think, , Mayfield, , and markets. And that's . . . they've got a dark air-cured area there.

KLEE: That's essentially the same tobacco, though, isn't it?

BROWN: Essentially the same. Basically, though, I think it's . . . it's your dark-fired tobacco that's air-cured. Understand? It . . . it's . . . it's a different tobacco than what we raise . . .

KLEE: That is?

BROWN: . . . is. air-cured tobacco. But it . . . it can be used . . . it is used for the same thing. But it's . . . I can tell the difference in it. It's no trouble for someone like me that's been in the tobacco business all his life to look at Green River tobacco and know it's Green River tobacco, and know that dark air-cured one-sucker is one-sucker and . . . because they use a . . . a different . . . like I say, they use basically what looks like to me fired tobacco see and just air cure it. And that's the reason. But it can be substituted and used the same way.

KLEE: Okay. Let me . . . let me get it straight in my mind. So here, you've got the . . . the dark air-cured and the dark fire-cured. Now they're essentially the same seed, just processed differently?

BROWN: Basically. There . . . there is a difference in them.

KLEE: Oh, there is a difference then?

BROWN: There is a difference in them but they . . . you can substitute them.

KLEE: Okay, so the . . .

BROWN: Your dark-fired is . . . is a bigger, broader leaf than your dark air-cured.

KLEE: Okay, so what they're doing up in that area is essentially growing that . . . what you-all would smoke down here . . . or fire?

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: But they're air-curing it.

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: So you do have a little regional variation . . .

BROWN: Right. Um, hmm.

KLEE: . . . like you said, yourself and I guess buyers and so forth?

BROWN: Have preferences to what they want. So I guess for some buyers, they'd rather go up there . . . suits their needs better, and others come down here?

BROWN: Right. This dark air-cured tobacco is basically . . . they like it for your plug and your twist chewing tobacco. Where your , they like it . . . it can . . . it will suit for your wet snuffs and your snuffs better than . . . than our tobacco.

KLEE: Now this dark-fired tobacco here is also used for the . . . the wet snuffs?

BROWN: Right. Wet snuff. A lot of it is exported to your foreign countries. Your Dutch buy a tremendous amount of this dark-fired tobacco. They . . .

KLEE: What do they . . . do you know what they're using it for?

BROWN: Chewing and smoking.

KLEE: Is that right?

BROWN: Um, hmm. They . . . they use . . . they have a very, very strong pipe tobacco over there that's very popular that it goes into.

KLEE: Well both of these dark kinds of tobacco, then, are really in a way stronger than . . . stronger flavor than the burley?

BROWN: Right. Got a whole lot . . . I would presume a whole lot more tar and nicotine in them than . . . than your . . . your burley tobacco. But it's used for chewing and snuff and I know a man that recently died. He was a hundred and four [chuckles] and he said . . . I talked to him one time about chewing, and he chewed to-, chewed tobacco everyday. His son . . . he got so feeble that his son would get him up of a morning and cut him a chew of tobacco, a plug of tobacco and put it in his mouth, because he was too feeble to do it himself at a hundred and four [chuckle] and he said he . . . I asked him how long has he been chewing, and he said, "Son I don't know; I been chewing it so long, I can't remember when I started." And . . . but I've know so many, many people that have chewed since they were . . . you know, ten, fifteen years old and lived to ninety, a hundred.

KLEE: Because this tobacco's shorter, I'm still . . . we're still talking about the dark air-cured cause you . . . you do grow a lot of it, you personally, do you grow as much of it as you do the burley?

BROWN: I grow more . . .

KLEE: A little more.

BROWN: . . . dark air-cured tobacco than I do burley. I . . . we grow . . . twelve . . . we had twelve acres of dark air-cured this time, and . . . and then we'll make seven acres of burley tobacco.

KLEE: Your barns were built with the air-cured tobacco in mind?

BROWN: Your older barns were. I have a . . . we have a barn on my dad's place that's . . . it's about a hundred years old right now. It was built around 188-, in the 1880's. It was . . . it was built for fire-cured tobacco. It's built . . . it has your round tier poles in it and all . . . like you say, all your older barns were built for . . . for your dark . . . your dark tobaccos. The newer barns were built for . . . for burley and . . . because you . . . you had abundance of barns in the area, and if your man needed a barn, it was usually for burley.

KLEE: But some of the older barns are those that you . . . you can tighten up and get the smoke in . . .

BROWN: Right. Um, hmm.

KLEE: The reason I was asking, even with the air-cured burley, it surely doesn't hang down as far?


KLEE: Does that make it easier to harvest and easier to . . . easier to . . .

BROWN: Right, it does. It . . . and of course, your leaves are so much heavier and bigger than your burley that it will break a whole lot easier. You have to use an extreme amount of caution when cutting it because a bruised leaf is a green leaf and a bad leaf, and they will not buy green tobacco, like they will not buy green burley. You know, very well. But . . .

KLEE: So even a little more strict?

BROWN: It is very, very strict. They definitely need the tobacco a good brown color, and because green is always . . . means bitter tobacco, and when you're chewing tobacco, you sure don't want a bitter tobacco. You want a . . . a tobacco that is . . . is . . . course you got the true tobacco taste. And . . .

KLEE: So in some ways, it's harder because you have to take more care and . . .

BROWN: It is carried over into our burley. We feel like that have got a tremendous burley market here in . . . in Logan County because the farmers down here take such good care of their dark tobacco, they take good care of their burley tobacco, and we think that we have the best burley tobacco now in the state because we take such good care of it.

KLEE: I see. It's a carry-over.

BROWN: It's a carry-over from . . . from your dark-fired because the . . . you . . . especially your older farmers, they . . . it was pride. And among the neighbors and everything, maybe everybody got the same price for their dark air-cured tobacco, you know. You know, it may not vary much in price, but the grade would make the difference to them. You know, they . . . they . . . they . . . they have so much pride in the way they raise tobacco that . . . that they . . . they really work at it. And . . . and it is carried over into our burley and we got a tremendous burley market here because the farmers really work at . . . at quality.

KLEE: Tell me about the . . . the tobacco hangs in the barn, depending on the season, about the way it does with burley? About the same length of time?

BROWN: Basically. Now . . . course the burley market opens usually somewhere around the first of November, around I think . . . this year we open the eighteenth of November. And . . . but we will not start selling dark air-cured tobacco 'til about . . . oh, sometime in December.

KLEE: So it does take longer to cure up?

BROWN: Well, basically, I don't know . . . it might take a little . . . it does take a little longer to cure up because you've got a bigger stem and the . . . the leaf. And a thicker leaf. And it takes a little longer for it to cure up and . . . and we . . . so therefore, we start the sales a little later. Personally, I wish we could start the sales after Christmas, but there's some amount of people that need Christmas money . . .

KLEE: That's true.

BROWN: . . . so therefore, we . . . [chuckles] we have about three sales before Christmas.

KLEE: Oh, I see. Now when you strip it, how many grades do most people . . . the dark air-cured, what . . . how they stripping it out?

BROWN: It depends entirely on the quality. And . . . and the length of the leaves. If you've got some tobacco that didn't do real well, you'll have some shorter leaves. And on our grade card, there is a discount for short leaves. Your forty-seven, forty-six, and forty-five lengths carry one grade, and your shorter tobacco . . . forty-four length . . . will carry a . . . basically it's about a four dollar discount.

KLEE: So even if it was real high quality and good color and so forth, if it's shorter leaves . . .

BROWN: Right. The price drops . . .

KLEE: . . . the price drops pretty drastically.

BROWN: Right. It really does. And so if you've got real good tobacco, you can probably make three grades of it off each stalk and . . . and do real well. Now I have seen as high as five or six.

KLEE: Uh-huh. They use the same terminology: stripping into tips and trash and . . .

BROWN: Well, your . . . in dark, air-cured tobacco, and dark fire-cured, both, the top of the stalk is where your quality is.

KLEE: I see.

BROWN: The bottom of the stalk has got some dirt and sand in it and of course being used for chewing, you cannot use tobacco that's got sand in it for chewing, so therefore . . . and it's not as smooth and good a quality so your . . . your bottom and your stalk is . . . is . . . is your lowest quality.

KLEE: What do they call those leaves?

BROWN: We call them trash and lugs.

KLEE: Okay. Middle leaves?

BROWN: You've got some real [inaudible] we call them buzzard lugs. [chuckles]

KLEE: Can you do anything with them at all?

BROWN: . . . Very little. We had a few years when we'd get . . . and that's non-, those types right there, most of them are not price-supported, and we have, in the last few years, ones we call buzzard lugs bring a nickel a pound. [chuckle] And that's . . . that's course you're not . . . you cannot hardly . . . fool with tobacco, you can't even handle it for a nickel a pound. And . . . but most of them bring from a nickel to fifteen cents. And the only reason that anyone even fools with them if they're that bad, is because they wanna keep their poundage up on their tobacco.

KLEE: I see. Cause it goes down with acreage.

BROWN: Well it's down with acreage, but they think one of these days it may go to poundage, and if it does, they wanna have a . . . their farm history would show that they've got a good poundage on that . . . on their farm.

KLEE: Right.

BROWN: And so therefore, they still sell as many pounds as they possibly can grow off of their acreage.

KLEE: A little thinking going on there then. What about the middle leaves? What do they call those?

BROWN: We call them seconds. Seconds, uh-huh. And the seconds is . . . very good tobacco. It's milder tobacco than your top leaves, and some companies desire them more than they do your . . . your top . . . top of your stalk, and . . . but it all depends on the quality of them and how they're handled.

KLEE: And the top leaves are called . . .

BROWN: Leaf . . . leaf tobacco.

KLEE: And that's really about got it ordinarily.

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: You might have . . .

BROWN: . . . different variations of that. You may have short leaves or . . . you know, that . . . that'll have to go into a grade, or green tobacco or . . . or like I say, this tobacco gets a rust on it or a fungus that makes brown spots come. You have to take them out and course we . . . the old nemesis of hail really can be devastating to dark tobacco. Burley, where it's gonna be ground up anyway, and gone into cigarettes, if you get a hail on it, it really doesn't make any difference, cause it's just gonna be ground up. And fire . . . and fired tobacco and dark air-cured tobacco, it's . . . it's absolutely devastating. It can absolutely destroy a crop in five minutes.

KLEE: You mentioned earlier about sand in the tobacco and that . . . that brings up the question of, you know, the type of soil you have in this area. What kind of ground is it for growing tobacco?

BROWN: Well, we have a limestone base in the north end of , and sandstone base in . . .

KLEE: The south?

BROWN: Wait a minute. Excuse me, I said . . . just backwards. It's the limestone in the south end of and sandstone in the north end of . And the south end of raises a whole lot higher quality dark air-cured and dark fire-cured tobacco than the north end does.

KLEE: I see.

BROWN: The sandstone ground will raise just as good a quality burley as the limestone soil will, but it . . . they cannot nearly compete with the farmers in the south end when it goes to the dark air-cured and fired.

KLEE: Now they do grow some up there?

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: It's not quality? Just isn't as good?

BROWN: Just . . . the quality's not as good. You have a few farmers up there that grow . . . raises real good dark air-cured tobacco but most of the time, they have got some red clay soil that . . . that . . . that we have in the north . . . I mean, in south , and that's the reason they can raise the [inaudible]. It's more akin to our soil that we have in the south end of the county.

KLEE: Does that partially explain the . . . the concentration of the dark tobacco in those counties you mentioned earlier?

BROWN: Right. Um, hmm.

KLEE: It's just the . . . as you get . . .

BROWN: It's the soil . . .

KLEE: . . . out on the fringes, you can't just . . . you just then can't grow the quality.

BROWN: That's right. It's the soil. It's . . . it has always been that way. The soil has just . . . has . . . has . . . will give you quality, cause there's just as good farmers in the north end of Logan County [chuckle] as it is in the south end. It's just the fact that the soil makes the tobacco.

KLEE: So you strip it in these three or four grades, depending on, you know, the size of your leaf and so forth. And it's all hand-tied.

BROWN: Right. In very small hands.

KLEE: Small hands.

BROWN: About seven to ten leaves. At maximum ten leaves.

KLEE: Is that so the buyers can see everything better?


KLEE: Or why?

BROWN: See, it goes through a redryer when it gets to the company, and they want those hands uniform to the point that . . . that each hand can go on . . . it's still put on an old fashioned redryer that's . . . that's still got your tobacco sticks and they hang it right back on the tobacco sticks and run it through the redryer thataway, on the hand. It's still in the hand. And they want each hand to be basically the same size.

KLEE: Has it been like that as long as you can remember?

BROWN: As long as I can remember. And of course, there's always a movement underway to . . . to put the dark air-cured tobacco in bales like burley. But the companies tell us that . . . that as long as it's going for chewing and for your twist and your . . . your plugs, that there's no other way that they can handle the tobacco except in hands. If it was all going for snuff, that is ground up anyway, so it doesn't make any difference. They could . . . they could bale it. But as long as there's such a chew-, and amount of tobacco being chewed that they . . . they still . . . they have to be hand-tied and it's . . . the only way a government support price can be put on it is if it's hand-tied. If you get too big a hand, the grader will put a big "H" . . . "BH" on it and that's a twenty cents reduction in your support price.

KLEE: Oh. So farmers are careful then not to let that happen.

BROWN: Right. Um, hmm.

KLEE: Let me . . . you . . . you have an interesting viewpoint, because you're a warehouseman. And you see the buyers and so forth. What kinds of . . . you mentioned a couple of buyers or . . . or one that . . . a tobacco supply company, what . . . who are some of the other buyers of the dark tobacco?

BROWN: Okay. You've got U.S. Tobacco Company, which right now is your biggest buyer of dark air-cured tobacco.

KLEE: They're the ones that put all the smokeless tobacco out on the market? The Skoals, and the Bandits and . . .

BROWN: Um, hmm.

KLEE: . . . those different kinds of . . . have other companies picked up on that?

BROWN: Right. They sure have. Your Conwood Cor-, Corporation which is American Snuff here on . . . on our market, buying in the name of American Snuff, they're a big buyer. We had R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company . . . was the biggest buyer of dark tobacco until two years ago, and last year they pulled off the market completely and it was announced just a few . . . about a month ago that they are selling all their interests in the dark tobaccos, they . . .

KLEE: That was their pipe . . . ?

BROWN: Right, pipe and the chewing plugs. And they . . . they're selling all their interests and they're getting out of the . . . the chewing business altogether so they quit buying. They were buying thirty-five percent of our market.

KLEE: Gee, has that had . . . course this just happened what? Last year, year before?

BROWN: Um, hmm. Just had a tremendous effect of it. If you would, I would like to show you what kind of effect it had.

KLEE: Okay. [pause in tape] You were talking about the . . . the way R. J. Reynolds has pulled out of the market, what kind of effect it had.

BROWN: Right. In 1981 market, we opened with average . . . average [inaudible] floor for the first sale was a $1.3196 with a top sale that year, average, was $1.4056. The next year, `81-`82, we opened at $1.2891, with a top sale being . . . average . . . of $1.4716. The year that R. J. Reynolds pulled out, which was the `82-`83 year, we av-, opened with $1.1471 average, and the top sale that year was $1.3357.

KLEE: So the farmers of the dark air-cured has not only not had raises, they had . . .

BROWN: We was taking . . .

KLEE: . . . actual declines.

BROWN: . . . that's true. Last year, we opened at $1.3179 and the top sale was $1.4621.

KLEE: So you're about back where you were four years ago?

BROWN: Right. We averaged, for the year, I'll . . . I'll show you the averages. The 1981 year, we averaged $1.2552. The `82 year, the year before Reynolds pulled out, we averaged $1.3834, the year that Reynolds pulled out, we averaged $1.2188, and last year was back to $1.2799.

KLEE: That's still twenty cents lower than . . .

BROWN: So the year before Reynolds pulled out, you're talking $1.3834 to . . . to the last year $1.2799, talk $1.28.

KLEE: Yeah.

BROWN: So you can see the . . . the difference of one company pulling off the market. A Maysville company . . .

KLEE: Really hasn't had enough pull . . . not enough other companies in it to make up that slack.

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: What's it look like for the dark tobacco?

BROWN: Course . . . it's . . . it's a two-edged sword. The . . . the . . . far as the companies, the companies are making tremendous profits. The Skoal and U.S. Tobacco Company and . . . are setting sales records each quarter. All the companies are doing extremely well. But the American tobacco farmer in , and tobacco farmer, are not because they are buying imported tobacco and not wanting our tobacco. They're buying enough to keep their quality up, and . . . but . . .

KLEE: Filling in with the imports?

BROWN: Filling in with imports and they, like I say, they're selling more tobacco products than they've ever sold before, and doing extremely well. Their profits are going out the ceiling and ours are going down every day. [pause in tape]

KLEE: I didn't wanna leave . . . were there any other major companies that are into that . . . that dark tobacco market? You mentioned U.S. Tobacco and Conwood . . .

BROWN: Well, like I say, we have Tobacco Supply which is a . . . a subsidiary of Austin Tobacco Company which is an order buyer for your European com-, countries. And they . . . they'll . . . they buy for anyone that wants to order dark air-cured, dark fire-cured tobacco. And then you've got Dibrell [Dibrell-Kentucky Inc.] Tobacco Company in , which is an order buyer for . . . he has his regular customers.

KLEE: He's an independent then?

BROWN: Independent. And then we have R.C. Owen Tobacco Company and he is a small manufacturer, local manufacturer of . . . of dark-fired and dark air-cured products.

KLEE: Now is that . . . is that the one that's the Warren County Twist? Is that . . .



BROWN: No, see that's . . . they're products . . . let me think. One of them White Mule, and Team B.

KLEE: Now these are the Owens' . . .

BROWN: Uh-huh. And they're located in .

KLEE: Oh okay.

BROWN: And like I say, they . . . they're in . . . your Warren County Twist and other . . . I can't think of the names of them right now, but that's . . . they were made by Scott Tobacco Company, and Scott Tobacco Company was bought out by the Conwood Corporation which is American Snuff. Or, American Snuff is the Conwood Corporation. So that's another case of the small tobacco company being bought out by a large conglomerate and . . . and . . . but still keeping local product.

KLEE: Yeah.

[End Tape #1, Side #2]

[Begin Tape #2, Side #1]

KLEE: This is tape number two with James Bradley Brown by John Klee for the Kentucky Oral History Commission. The interview is being conducted on at the Brown Warehouse near Russellville. And we're continuing the interview . . . we've been talking about the . . . the buyers of the dark air-cured. Now you said that a lot of the ways people . . . these individuals go out to the farm and buy. But you still get a significant amount on the floor?

BROWN: True. It . . . it gives the farmer an alternative of which way you can go. Course when . . . when a company comes to his barn, he gets one price that they quote him and if he thinks that he can do better with . . . the several companies here on the floor bidding for his tobacco, well he'll bring it on it and . . . and sell it at auction. Or he, like I say, can take the price that the . . . that the man out in the country will . . . will offer him and . . . and he'll be satisfied with that price.

KLEE: Now you have separate sales for the dark tobacco?

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: And there's a different set of buyers?

BROWN: Right. Um, hmm.

KLEE: Same auctioneers?

BROWN: No, different auctioneers. Different graders. Cause they . . . we have graders that are schooled for the dark air-cured tobacco and we've got a different set of graders . . . that's for both kinds of tobacco that we sell here on the floor. We sell dark air-cured and dark . . . and burley. On the . . . in . . . on our floor. Now does not have a dark-fired market, so the farmers in . . . in have to go to either , or , or to sell their dark-fired tobacco. So . . . but we can . . . years and years ago, that was the way it was set up and we . . . we got the burley and . . .

KLEE: Dark air-cured.

BROWN: . . . dark air-cured markets here in Russellville. And course, , has dark burley and dark air-cured and is the only market I know of that sells all three kind. They sell burley, dark air-cured and dark fire-cured.

KLEE: Now will you have . . . will there be burley sales . . . you know, and the dark air-cured going on at the same time? Not, I mean, the same day maybe?

BROWN: It has happened that we have, on this floor, had two sales going on simultaneously of dark air-cured and burley. [chuckles] It's not an ideal situation to say the least. A lot of confusion and . . . and everything, but most of the time, we . . . in the last couple of years, we worked it out where we . . . we sell dark air-cured tobacco twice a week and we sell burley, have been selling it four days a week, so we . . . worked it out where we can . . . maybe we'll have burley sale in the morning, dark air-cured sale in the afternoon.

KLEE: Now what . . . R. J. Reynolds, you said before, had about thirty-five percent of the market. U.S. Tobacco, it takes what of the market?

BROWN: , right now, is taking . . . has made huge strides and they . . . they . . . I guess right now have got thirty to forty percent of the market. They . . . like I say, they are a big, big buyer and they . . .

KLEE: Who are the other majors out of this group? Conwood and . . .

BROWN: Conwood Corporation and . . . and the Owen Tobacco Company is a . . . a big, big buyer.

KLEE: I see. These . . . when that tobacco is out on the floor, what does it look like, in comparison to the burley?

BROWN: It's much darker. It's . . . it's a dark, red face on it with a dark brown back. And very smooth. It's a dark air-cured tobacco that . . . that is high quality. You grab hold of the leaf and pull on it and it'll just keep on stretching.

KLEE: I see.

BROWN: And then when you turn loose of it, it'll just pull right back together. And like I say, it's got to have . . . well, what companies call elasticity. It'll stretch and . . . and come back together. It's very . . . very viable type tobacco.

KLEE: So they're looking . . . they . . . they look for . . . they're looking at the color and this elasticity and . . . different then, obviously, than the burley.

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: Okay.

BROWN: It's . . . it has it's . . . it's the part that is chewed and is tasted, therefore it's got to have the taste and the smell and everything has got to be right because when you're . . . when you're smoking tobacco, it . . . you don't . . . you taste it after it's been burned. And . . . where this is raw tobacco that you're tasting.

KLEE: Has there been problems on the dark air-cured with . . . with chemical contents, for example?

BROWN: No more . . .

KLEE: The foreign buyers . . .

BROWN: . . . no more than . . . than the burley. Like I say, very honest in this, the . . . the . . . course the government tells us what chemicals we can put on tobacco. What . . . which ones we can use, which ones we cannot use. And I do not know of a farmer that would use anything on tobacco that . . . tobacco that would . . . would harm anyone because, let's face it: a farmer has to be out there in that tobacco himself. And he's not gonna put anything on that tobacco that's gonna harm him, so therefore he . . . he's very careful about what he uses. And [inaudible] . . .

KLEE: Let's turn the discussion over to the burley that you do grow. The growing season again is a little earlier in this part . . . [pause in tape] The . . . the burley season is a little earlier down in this part of the state, I guess?

BROWN: Yeah, probably is. We . . . we usually set our tobacco like I already stated somewhere around . . . we like to get started somewhere around the tenth of May. And we set it and . . . and we . . . we grow it probably a little bit different than they do up in the burley belt. We grow it a little bit further apart.

KLEE: Do you?

BROWN: We grow our burley twenty-two to twenty-four inches apart, and we top it as soon as we see the first blooms.

KLEE: Oh, you don't wait for a lot of it to bloom out?

BROWN: Huh-uh.

KLEE: Why the distance? Why the extra distance between plants? Is that because the soil . . .

BROWN: We like a . . . a thicker, heavier type burley.

KLEE: Oh, okay. I see.

BROWN: We found out that we can sell it better. [chuckle] And we, say, top it when about a fourth of the patch is in bloom.

KLEE: Now what . . . what . . . what's the reason? Again, that's because you'll get those bigger leaves?

BROWN: Right. We top it . . .

KLEE: Top it down lower, I guess?

BROWN: Top it lower and we . . . we put [inaudible] down the plant and then we come in . . . come back with the . . . with MH30 over the top at a lot less rate because we don't have to hold the suckers as long because we've done used a substance .

KLEE: Well now most . . . in . . . in the central part of the state, and eastern part of the state, they don't have the two treatments.

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: They'll usually just treat it once with MH30.

BROWN: Right. With an extreme amount of MH30.

KLEE: Right.

BROWN: Course a lot of your foreign markets do not like a lot of MH30 on their tobacco, and that's another reason that they're [inaudible] down to this area because when we open the market up, the first thing that goes on, as far as the buyers are concerned, when they get to Russellville, the first they do is pull samples of all this tobacco that's on the floor right then, and they ship it to their laboratories and take samples of it and they know what is in our tobacco. They know what chemicals have been used, they know the amount of chemicals still left in that tobacco. And that is a selling point when they . . . they . . . go to resell this tobacco overseas or use it themselves.

KLEE: Right. Now you mentioned that it's planted a little different and . . . and in the field, it's treated a little different, harvesting is about the same. How about the way it's . . . it's put in the barn and cured up?

BROWN: Well . . . I been to and watched them harvest tobacco up there. And being small acreage down here, it's usually done by the families on the farm and we still treat it a whole lot gentler than the folks around do. We . . . we treat it very easy and put it in the barn. A lot of times, tobacco around here is cut and . . . and put on the stick and let it wilt for a couple, three hours, and hauled straight to the barn right then.

KLEE: Oh, I see.

BROWN: So that it will not get sunburned in any way, or it would not get rained on, and like I say, folks down here take extreme pride in their tobacco.

KLEE: Not left out two or three days then?

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: How do the . . . how do the buyers find it then? Has the market been pretty high?

BROWN: We have been . . . the last three, four years, one of the top five markets in the state. And . . . and there's different reason for that. The basic reason is that . . . is that the Japanese and the Germans have found down here that . . . that we are raising this heavier burley, that it's extremely ripe, and extremely full-flavored tobacco that they can mix with world tobacco and get our . . . United States flavor and taste mixed with world tobacco. And it . . . it'll go a long way. The flavor . . . flavor of world tobacco, which has not got the flavor and taste that ours has. And so that makes it more valuable.

KLEE: So you . . . you've got a fairly desirable burley market then?

BROWN: We've got an extremely good burley market. We . . . that . . . that plus the fact that we still have a lot of hand-tied tobacco . . . I expect . . . [chuckle] I haven't drawn up the figures . . . but I expect it was somewhere around fifty percent of our tobacco was still hand-tied last year.

KLEE: Last year.

BROWN: And you still have got some companies, small foreign companies that still have to have the tobacco hand-tied because they're small and . . . and . . . and they're processing ways have not changed and been updated, you know, they're . . . as . . . as your big companies can do. So they still need their hand-tied tobacco and they can come here and get it.

KLEE: Who are the major buyers of the burley down here? What kind of companies . . .

BROWN: Well, you got Southwest-, Southwestern Tobacco Company which is the major buyer, and of course he is an order buyer for anyone who needs . . . needs to buy . . . buy tobacco. His major . . . his major man that he buys for is Philip Morris. They buy tobacco for Philip Morris Tobacco Company which is, I guess, the biggest tobacco company in the .

KLEE: Yeah.

BROWN: And . . . but he also buys for a lot of small companies and foreign market. Then we have Dearborn Tobacco Company, which is an order buyer, and then we have Export Tobacco Company which is also an order buyer, but basically buys for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company. We have American Tobacco Company. We have Reynolds Tobacco Company. We have Austin Tobacco Company, and I think that's our . . .

KLEE: So you have a line of eight, ten buyers then, usually?

BROWN: Yeah. Um, hmm.

KLEE: One of the things that's kind of . . . you know, that we talk about is that the tobacco farmer down here is a little different, maybe, than some of his counterparts, and course that goes back historically. This is where the center of the troubles were 'way back when. Can you comment on that? Do you . . . is the . . . is the tobacco farmer extra independent? Course you . . . you have to deal with that, too because you're a warehouseman.

BROWN: Well, you better believe when a farmer . . . and I know my customers, but . . . when a customer that I know that he has had an extreme amount of . . . has always had an extreme amount of pride in his tobacco, when he drives into my warehouse, you better believe that I put my best men on that truck because I know that he wants his tobacco handled properly, in the right way, and I absolutely school my men that . . . that when a farmer brings his tobacco in, and it has been handled with extreme care, they better handle it with extreme care. And better do a supreme job in putting it on the basket or putting it on the pallet, whichever way. You know, if it's baled . . . and . . . but . . . but when a . . . your dark air-cured bring theirs in, course it's all hand-tied, and if he's done an extremely good job, we're gonna do an extremely good job. If he has done a sorry job, the old saying "you can't make a silk purse out of a hog's ear" [chuckles] and so you . . . you do the best you can with what you've got. But yes, it . . . when a farmer brings it in that's done a good job, that's my job to see that it continues here on the floor.

KLEE: Now you've got people working for you and of course, I guess you've got part of the warehouse set aside for the dark air-cured and the other part for the burley.

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: There's still some skill left, particularly with the hand-tied in how you prepare a basket and do this kind of thing.

BROWN: I've got . . . I've got, I'd say, five or six . . . seven employees that have been with me an extremely long period of time. They have [chuckle] they come every year and work, and a lot . . .

KLEE: Mostly farmers?

BROWN: Right. Or have farmed and retired and come to town, and now they supplement their income by working three months out of the year on the tobacco warehouse floor. And they . . . I guess I've got more than that. I guess I've got at least ten of them anyway. I had more than that. Course, you know, the older they get the [inaudible] [chuckles], you know, they . . . they . . . you know, kind of retire to the point where they can't work on the floor cause it is strenuous work and hard work. But they do an extremely good job.

KLEE: But you have to prepare a basket a certain way and it's tied up . . .

BROWN: Yeah . . . yeah, your old type burley baskets that were . . . were hand-tied burley were packed round, and still are. Now the dark air-cured tobacco is packed square. And we're . . . when you come on the tobacco warehouse floor, you . . . you'll see that all the dark air-cured tobacco is packed square and it's . . . can only be five foot high [inaudible] most you can put on it and . . . and most of the time, if it's good quality leaf tobacco and it's five foot high, it's gonna weigh close to seven hundred pounds. Okay, it weighs extremely heavy. But it's . . . right . . . it's real pretty once you get a floor of dark air-cured tobacco set down, and it's . . . it's all five foot high or four foot high and looks real beautiful.

KLEE: What . . . the warehouse business in this area, in Russellville, for example, are there . . . are there several warehouses?

BROWN: There's . . . let me think . . . six warehouses in Russellville. And four different concerns. We have . . . we have one warehouse, and . . . and then the New Burley Warehouse is owned by four gentlemen, three of them are from North Carolina and one from Todd County, Kentucky. And . . . which is the next county over, and then I . . . we have the New Planters [Tobacco] Warehouse which is owned by two farmers here in , and then we have Russellville Loose Leaf Tobacco Warehouse, which is . . . they have three warehouses, and they're . . . it's owned by two farmers in .

KLEE: Now this is a relatively new facility. Have you been in the warehouse business very long? Is this . . . did this replace an older building?

BROWN: Right. My dad started about twenty years ago in a warehouse on in Russellville, and . . . no, excuse me, , and right behind the courthouse. And . . . and . . . that he rented and the facility got in such bad shape and they wanted to tear it town to build a shopping center, and he had the foresight enough to buy some property out on the edge of town and . . . and when they decided to tear that warehouse down to build the shopping center, we were ready to build a warehouse. So we built this warehouse in 1976.

KLEE: I see.

BROWN: So . . . this will be the ninth year.

KLEE: I see. The . . . the crop in this area, has it . . . I guess it's . . . it's closely matched the way the state's gone? We've had early . . . early 80's there were a couple short years and the last few years we've had abundant crops?

BROWN: Yeah, that's been . . . in 1983 we . . . again were one of the top markets in the state. We had a lot of droughts [inaudible] tobacco in that . . . in that year, but we had more rain in this area than a lot of folks had. And we had, like I say, another top . . . we were top . . . one of the top markets in the state. We . . . we had some real high quality tobacco that year. But the worst year that I can remember is the year that the blue mold hit. And we were one of the first counties it hit and it absolutely devastated our crop that year. It was . . . it was really bad. I had two acres of tobacco myself in burley tobacco that had never did even harvest.

KLEE: Gee.

BROWN: So it was . . . it was really bad down here that year. But your . . . has gone just about the way the rest of the state has gone. We've . . . we've . . . the last two years, three years, we've had a tremendous amount of tobacco and it's been high quality tobacco.

KLEE: Has the . . . has the pool been getting a lot from . . . you know, from the sales you have here?

BROWN: An extreme amount.

KLEE: Of both types?

BROWN: Well, not so much dark air-cured up until last year. Now, last year, they were . . . I can't remember the figures on . . . on the dark air cured, but not . . . I would say somewhere around maybe twenty . . . fifteen to twenty percent of the dark air-cured. Up until then, there'd been very little dark air-cured gone . . . gone to the pool. I think we've got something like . . . had something like four million pounds of dark air-cured in the pool, so it's not . . .

KLEE: No it's not a big . . .

BROWN: . . . a big amount until last year. Now it jumped up last year [inaudible]. Got something like million pounds in the pool which is still very manageable.

KLEE: Right.

BROWN: But the burley, with our high quality tobacco, it seemed like the companies were buying low quality tobacco [chuckle] and so therefore, we've got a tremendous amount go to the pool. The . . . the . . . I know the year 1983, we had some friends in , and they couldn't believe we were averaging the way we were, and . . . and we sent them some samples [chuckle] of our tobacco. But we've had . . . the companies buy what they want and look like they buy . . . they've been buying low quality tobacco . . .

KLEE: And getting a lower price probably?

BROWN: Right. But we've had . . . a good market for the money going into the farmers' hands and the average price.

KLEE: Tell me, you know, you're a young . . . you're a young man and . . . and living off farming and farm-related businesses. What's the situation like here for farmers? Are . . . you know, are farms being sold? Are land values down? These kinds of things?

BROWN: [chuckle] It's the toughest time that I can ever remember in farming. It's . . . there's no way to tell someone how I feel and how much I worry about the farm situation here in . I'm president of the Farm Bureau here in the county, too, and . . . and so I'm in contact with farmers constantly, whether in some . . . related to the tobacco warehouse or Farm Bureau. I've had . . . I live seven miles from Russellville, south of Russellville. I've had three of my neighbors have gone bankrupt this summer. And . . . and they're close friends, and that's hard, and it's not because they haven't worked, because they've worked hard. Land values three, four years ago . . . I guess four years ago were two thousand dollars to twenty-four hundred dollars an acre. Now we're seeing south land bring five hundred dollars an acre, and that hurts. When . . . you know, you got your land valued at two thousand dollars an acre and . . . and you borrowed money against that to buy tractors and things that you need, and . . . or buy more land, and then you see your land value going down like that, you . . . you know that there's no way to pay . . . pay . . . that kind of money back when you're . . . four, five years ago, we were getting eight dollars a bushel for soybeans and now we're getting four dollars and eighty-three cents. We were getting three dollars and a half for corn, and now we're getting two dollars a bushel for corn. So . . . and cattle the same way. We were getting eighty cents a pound, and now I sold some of the finest bull calves the other day that . . . that I've ever had, and I got forty-four cents a pound for them and they were good. And so when you've got your . . . commodities that we sell have dropped that much in price, and I . . . I get extremely hostile I guess you'd say when I talk to some of my friends that live in town, and they say, well those farmers that have gone bankrupt are just bad managers. It's not the case.

KLEE: Yeah.

BROWN: They . . . they've farmed hard and worked hard. They worked extremely long hours and they . . . the only thing that they might have done wrong, they listened to so-called experts that said that land values would not drop. And they bought land and now they're trying to pay for land that they gave two thousand dollars an acre for, and . . . and with prices that have plummeted to the bottom.

[End Tape #2, Side #1]

[Begin Tape #2, Side #2]

KLEE: This is side two of tape two with Bradley Brown. We're talking about the . . . you know, how land values have declined and farmers are going out of business. Is . . . is tobacco the lifeline now, that's about to be cut or . . . what . . . what are . . . you're thinking about opening the market here. What's . . . how does this crop gonna work? Or do you know?

BROWN: I'm going into it with . . . [chuckle] scared to death. I'll be honest with you. The farmers of need this tobacco crop as much as they've ever needed a crop in their lives. They are . . . there's farmers that are absolutely desperate. They . . . their creditors are hounding them everyday. They . . . corn and soybeans and . . . and cattle are at cost of production or below, and . . . and if they don't have a good tobacco crop, how can they pay for the tractors they've bought? The farm that they . . . you don't go out and pay for a farm in a year or two. It takes a lifetime to pay for a farm, and if you missed one or two payments, well . . . or have just made interest on payment . . . on a farm, interest payment on a farm, this year I hear they are gonna foreclose. And so . . .

KLEE: So it's beginning to impact now, even on the banks and . . .

BROWN: Right.

KLEE: . . . other businesses?

BROWN: 's economy is tied mainly to farming, and we have some factories here in the county and . . . and . . . but they're beginning to lay off workers. And so therefore this tobacco crop means as much to farmers, this year's tobacco crop, as it ever, ever has. And it's a good quality crop. But that doesn't mean they're gonna buy it.

KLEE: Right. You . . . have you-all received the instructions on how things are gonna operate? As . . . about the . . . is the support gonna be dropped? Or is the no-net gonna be 'way high? Or are you still . . . that's not . . .

BROWN: We don't know. It . . . it hasn't been decided. I . . . I've spent endless hours in meetings trying . . . trying to get something worked out between the companies and the farmers and the warehousemen and congress and [chuckle] . . . I'm on the State Tobacco Committee for Farm Bureau. I have been, like I say, to endless meetings. And it still has not gone through congress, and so therefore, we don't know what it will be. I think . . . my feeling is that we're going . . . the support price is . . . of the old . . . as it always . . . as it has been, and we'll take a thirty per-, or thirty cent . . .

KLEE: No-net . . .

BROWN: . . . no-net cost which, I guess, anybody listening to this tape, I want them to know that the farmers pay for their program and if the tobacco goes into the pool, it's . . . it has to be paid for by the farmers until a company buys it. And . . . and that's . . . the no-net cost is for . . . to . . . to run the tobacco program.

KLEE: In reference to that, you know, if . . . if either way it goes, you as a farmer: how do you feel? You'll be voting on the program, I guess, in the spring again?

BROWN: Um, hmm.

KLEE: It's a . . . it's a hard situation, I guess. [inaudible] the organizations and so forth saying, how do you feel about it?

BROWN: It's a no-win situation for the farmer. Basically, it's back to the old adage, the companies are gonna make their profits, and the farmer is still saying, what will you give me for my crop, and have no way of . . . of bargaining for a just price for his commodity. And the com-, tobacco companies are making the biggest profits they've ever made. But because they can get foreign tobacco brought over here and set down in their warehouses for a dollar a pound, they expect American farmers to produce it for that. The only catch is, in and and where this tobacco is being raised, they're doing it with slave labor. And we cannot compete against slave labor. And 'til the American government wakes up to the point and sees that we cannot compete with slave labor, we're gonna have the same . . . this problem. Importation of cars, importation of all farm commodities from beef to tobacco to fresh vegetables. The fuel industry is running in the same situation, and this country is . . . the steel industry's the same thing . . . but we cannot compete against slave labor that is being used to produce these products and that's the sole substance of the situation.

KLEE: Well that's been the Farm Bureau's, I guess, position that they . . . you know, they really . . . they think there's a . . . they said there's a correlation between when the tobacco companies really started importing and what happened with our . . . the increase in the . . . in the pool and so forth has been . . . that's been a dead-end street, I guess, as far as Congress . . .

BROWN: Burley's a dead end street, but it was not Congress, it was President [Ronald] Reagan period. Because we had our . . . we have got a law in place that says when your American commodities are being adversely affected by imports from foreign countries, that the president can impose import restrictions on those commodities. We had a called meeting, set up with the United States Trade Commission on this. Mr. Reagan said that it was not in the best interests of the to restrict trade in tobacco products and he controlled that commission and therefore they said that it was not affecting the American farmer, the tobacco was being imported. So therefore, all the tobacco that wants to be is still being imported in the .

KLEE: This is a related topic. I noticed has a tobacco festival, and I guess that's right around now? Is it this weekend?

BROWN: Starts this weekend and . . . and will end next weekend.

KLEE: There's . . . course you-all . . . folks in Bowling Green which is, I guess, a little bit of an urban center, as a tobacco farmer, do you get . . . when you talked about the . . . you know, your friends in town or the friends you have occasionally talked about [inaudible] management . . . are a lot of those people, have the health . . . I think it's . . . it's very popular right now to be anti-smoking. Kind of the hip thing to do. Do you feel any of that as a tobacco warehouseman? Or . . .

BROWN: Oh sure. Any time that I go into a restaurant, and they wanna know if I wanna sit in the smoking section or the non-smoking section and I tell them I just . . . I'd rather sit in the non-drinking section where a drunk won't fall over the top of me. [chuckles] I'm not gonna say that tobacco doesn't hurt some people because it does. It's been proven, but you . . . I think you have to take it on an individual basis and . . . and, you know, the United States is based on freedom, whether we got the freedom to smoke or not is [chuckle] . . . is basically simple and if a man wants to smoke, he's not hurting anyone but himself, and it's not a man drinking, who goes out and . . .

KLEE: Hurts somebody else.

BROWN: . . . hurts somebody else or somebody on dope that can hurt someone else. So . . . I'm not gonna say that it's the best habit in the world, but it's sure not the worst.

KLEE: Um, hmm. Well, is there anything we didn't touch on that you think that . . . I didn't know that much about this type of tobacco and these areas, but I think we've hit on most of the major points.

BROWN: I think we pretty well covered the dark air-cured tobacco. It's . . . it's a big plus for . is the dark air-cured capitol of the world. The most dark air-cured tobacco that is grown in the world is grown here in .

KLEE: Okay. Well, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

[End Tape #2, Side #2]

[End of Interview]