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[Begin Tape #1, Side #1]

KLEE: Testing one, two, three. [pause in tape] This interview is being conducted for the Kentucky Oral History Commission by John Klee and I'm talking to Mr. Russell Wilson. What I wanted to start with is if you'd just give me a little background about you in reference to farming and growing burley tobacco.

WILSON: Well, I guess, you know, like a lot of people around here, I was sort of born in a tobacco patch cause some of my earliest memories are of, you know, being very, very small and out where my dad was working in tobacco. And it's . . . course been a history in our family from way back, the tobacco business. My earliest memory of tobacco was up in where we lived and . . . strange thing about that . . . that I can remember that probably . . . maybe too many people can't is the fact that every year, farmers cleared ground to raise tobacco. Called that new ground. They did not fertilize, they . . . they went out and they cleared their acreage and I can remember . . . I can remember my dad and his hired help, they'd go out and clear the ground every year, and blow the stumps with dynamite. And clear it off and that's where they raised their tobacco.

KLEE: They plow under the old grass and weeds or whatever was there?

: Well, disc it up and . . .

KLEE: Disc it up . . .

: . . . get rid of the roots and the vines and do the best they could. It was a different type of tobacco. Mostly chewing tobacco, you know, snuff.

KLEE: And that was . . . what? Early 30's?

: Oh that'd been before then. That goes back . . . oh goodness, early 20's. We had a lot of forestation then that we don't have today. I can remember . . . I can remember acres and acres that were woods when I was a kid that are cleared off today.

KLEE: And when they were growing tobacco for, I guess, chewing, now did they go through the warehouse system that way?

: Yes.

KLEE: Still did.

: Yes, yes. But it was entirely different because you had no support price and my dad, I can remember him saying that he's taken more than one crop to the market, and the buyer would say, "Give me the trash and the tips and I'll be the good tobacco." That was . . . that was the way they bargained at that time. No price support. Two or three . . . maybe four cents a pound.

KLEE: Now what . . . what kind of tobacco was that? I mean, as far as the . . . was that a dark tobacco or .

: Well, no it was . . . I don't know. They . . . it was not hybrid and of course everything today is a hybrid. It's more or less . . . farmers saved their seed. I remember my dad would pick out the biggest, best plants in the field. He'd let it go to seed and then in the wintertime, he would tie that together and tie it high in the barn so that the mice and rats couldn't get it. And then in the spring, they'd shell that out and that's what they seeded from. It was . . . year to year, they'd save those seeds.

KLEE: Now when did that . . . in your recollection, do you remember about what time period that started to turn over?

: Oh yeah . . .

KLEE: When you started buying seed?

: Yeah, that's probably been about, oh, in the nineteen . . . early 50's, late . . . yeah, early 50's I'd say, we started to get hybrid seed.

KLEE: I see. Tell me about the . . . just the process of . . . of farming when you were . . . you know, from your . . . some of your earlier recollections now. They . . . I guess they used to burn the beds.

: Well, yeah. I . . . I've done a lot of that. As a matter of fact, I was probably the first person around here that used a chemical on a bed. The research farm next door here had done some experimental work, but it was small plots. I'm probably about . . . about the first fella around here that really made a chemical bed. Now at that time, it was not chemicals that we use today. It was . . . they had some things like bed rinse and so on that'd you mix like and pour it in fifty gallons and spray it on the bed and it soaked in and was supposed to kill weeds see. Then we went . . . went to gas, like Vorlex. And I am a great believer in methyl bromide. I usually make my own beds and use methyl bromide, about twelve pounds to a bed.

KLEE: You do use it? Now when you're . . . I guess you're . . . you've seen a lot of different kinds of equipment . . .

: Well of course, my . . . my early [chuckle] . . . you know, there was no tractor. It was . . . it was totally horses. And a single line horse and three-shovel plow to plow tobacco. And how in the world we ever got it done, I don't know.

KLEE: Did they raise as much tobacco then or . . .

: Yeah, probably acre-wise about as much. Of course, your yield was much, much smaller. They were much more particular with it. They used to strip tobacco, it would have to be not only in grade, but it had to be in length.

KLEE: Oh, I see. Now this was because of the warehouse demands, I guess.

WILSON: This was what they wanted. They said. This was what they wanted. Yes, we used to have to size it. Pull your lugs off, throw them in a pile, pick them up, tie a hand, pull the long leaves out, tie the short ones, and then pick the long ones up and tie them. So it . . . it was . . . yeah, it was kind of double process.

KLEE: Now did they . . . I guess they had to use a lot more, they used a lot more labor then? A lot more hands?

WILSON: Well, course at that time, the spear is a fairly recent innovation. They used to split tobacco with a tobacco knife and I was pretty proficient with those things. Then the spear came alone. That speeded it up a whole lot.

KLEE: Saved time. They would split the stalk and then just actually put it on the stick in the field?

WILSON: Oh yeah. Um, hmm. Yeah. And, course the . . . the spear came along more or less as a necessity because of the type tobacco we had, which grew much taller. If you split tobacco with a tobacco knife, you couldn't reach shoulder high and do this. It had to be something down where your could reach it. And the tobacco that they raised years ago did not grow tall . . . six feet and so on, like we have today. It was down fairly short . . . three feet . . .

KLEE: Three feet.

WILSON: . . . an it wasn't too bad then to use a knife on it, but the spear was sort of a necessary innovation to the type tobacco that we . . . that we started to raise.

KLEE: Now these . . . these horse-drawn setters, did they set the same way? Did they pull the setter that had the water and you dropped the plants?

WILSON: Right. And a great innovation or a great invention, whatever [chuckle] you wanna call it, was these automatic or mechanical setters that came along because we can almost set tobacco in your Sunday clothes today. The old Tiger and Bemus and those things. They were horse-drawn. Took two real . . . it took a real team of horses to walk slow enough to do that.

KLEE: Uh-huh. To pull that thing.

WILSON: To pull it at the right speed.

KLEE: Now were . . . was anybody doing hand-setting when . . .

WILSON: Oh yeah, well see . . . years ago, back in the 30's and so on, they had the idea that you couldn't raise tobacco except on a hillside.

KLEE: Oh I see. Now what was the . . . theory behind that?

WILSON: . . . There was no theory. It was just, I guess, an old-time custom that you put your tobacco on the worst land and raised your corn and things on the best land. I can remember we used to . . . every spring, we . . . my dad would plow the hillside and we'd have to go out and throw the big rocks down the hillside and sled them off. And course it was just too steep to put a setter on. We'd set this out by hand. He'd go along with a little short hoe . . . I've got one here if you wanna see it . . .

KLEE: Uh-huh.

WILSON: . . . and he'd set it in the ground, and I'd come along with a bucket of water and a tin cup and water it, kick some dirt over it and that's the way we set out tobacco. Day after day.

KLEE: Now this . . . part of this was . . . I guess tobacco wasn't as important to farmers as far as . . . as income in the early years as it was later.

WILSON: Well, I think tobacco has always been important to the farmer around here as an income. We don't have . . . you know, you only have to go as far north as Wilmington or even northern Brown County to see that we're not in soybean and corn country.

KLEE: Yeah.

WILSON: We can't do what they do up there.

KLEE: Right. The large, extensive kind of farming.

WILSON: Sure. Sure. So I think that the small, intensive, high cash value per acre is . . . is the life blood of this part of the country, as well as most of Kentucky. And you . . . in your memory, it's really been like that?

WILSON: Oh, it's always been like that. Yeah, tobacco was . . . was very, very important. That paid off the mor-, it was a mortgage lifter.

KLEE: Okay. Tell me a little bit, if you can, about the way the . . . the actual leaf has changed over the years. Has . . . you know, the market demands, I guess, is what you call it . . . has . . . do they want . . . what kinds of different kinds of tobacco have they wanted over the years?

WILSON: Well, you know, I . . . I guess I'm not qualified to give you an expert opinion, but from a [inaudible] tobacco company or some of the buyers could tell you more about it, but I . . . I can remember what my dad said, and course when I was little . . . smaller . . . younger, whatever you wanna call it, they raised tobacco then for . . . for chewing tobacco. It was a red, cherry-colored tobacco. When it was stuck together, it sort of ssssst [makes that noise] when you'd pull it apart, you know. It wasn't dry like it . . .

KLEE: It would stick.

WILSON: . . . lot of it stick together. Well the . . . course the history of . . . the history of cigarettes, and I don't know the whole history, but cigarettes became popular really during World War I. That's when they became popular and that was, course nin-, early . . . or late 1900's, 1916, `17, `18. Cigarettes started to become popular with the troops, and then it gradually drifted back so that the population here took it up. I would guess that along about that time, the need for a different type of leaf is when it started. course the University of Kentucky has been the leader in developing a leaf that the companies can use for these purposes.

KLEE: Now the . . . when the filter cigarette came in, too, I think that made it big. That boosted, I guess, the tobacco economy.

WILSON: Well, yes and no because they use . . . they don't use as much tobacco behind . . . in front of a filter as they do a non-filter. The filter had it's political . . . if that's the word . . .

KLEE: Yeah.

WILSON: . . . political emphasis or impact on the cigarette business and its advertising. Less nicotine, low tar, all of this. And I don't know that that's necessarily true. But the filter did do one thing. The filter . . . when the filter came along, that's what . . . that's what made it really no longer necessary to sort your tobacco as close as we used to because they could take a little of this and a little of that and mix it and put it behind the filter and you couldn't hardly tell the difference. course in the whole tobacco . . . the flavor of tobacco comes from burley. They put some flue-cured, some Turkish, exotics and all this in it, but your . . . really your kick or whatever you want . . . the taste of the cigarette has to come from your burley tobacco. So . . .

KLEE: Now what . . . when you . . . when you were stripping, say, as a young man, ordinarily what . . . how would you strip the tobacco. How many grades?

WILSON: Oh, you'd make . . . see, they made . . . they made trash, they made flyings actually which came from the very bottom, and then they made trash which is the next leaf up. Then you'd run into your lugs, and they'd make at least two of those, so that's one, two, three . . . that's four grades. Then you run into your bright leaf. Might have one or two there. And then you get into your tip, then, your red leaf, and then your tips. So you . . . you know, probably six to seven grades on everything. Or not grades, but six or seven different . . . groupings.

KLEE: And you'd . . . they would all be hand-tied separately and put on separately?

WILSON: Right.

KLEE: Now was there a big distinction in the price between the different grades? Or the . . . the types?

WILSON: Well, not necessarily because the . . . the companies buying on quality, whether it's a short leaf . . . generally they'll buy on quality. And they still do. It's not necessarily the . . . the length of the leaf, it's the quality that the buyers looks for. This can be . . . this can be a number of things and course we, as producers and farmers, don't necessarily recognize when we strip the crop that this may be attractive or unattractive to the company.

KLEE: Right.

WILSON: Because we don't know exactly what . . . and of course they buy on order. For instance, they may have . . . [R. J.] Reynolds may walk on the floor today and have a . . . have an order for some company, say for three hundred thousand pounds of a certain grade. Well, when they fill that grade, they no longer . . . maybe nobody else wants it. So the price . . .

KLEE: Will drop.

WILSON: . . . will drop a little.

KLEE: Now when did they . . . when did they start narrowing down the . . . the types they were stripping it in? Has that come fairly recently?

WILSON: Yeah, that . . . oh, probably . . . I'd say in the . . . probably early to middle 60's is when they really started their . . . their three-grade and some people two-grade. For some tobacco this . . . there's some tobacco that you can actually strip in two grades, but I . . . I've always found and I'm real particular about it . . . I've always found that you have at least three grades. I've always run three grades. I run the trash and the lugs . . . no, I run the flyings and trash and . . . maybe the first lug leaf together. And then I make a good lug grade. Now you have two. Now, on a normal year, if you have a good spread on tobacco, you can just about take what's left and make a grade of it. But over and above this, you always have a throw-out grade, which would be damaged, a little bit of green, a little bit of this or that. So you . . . you always . . . I always end up with four grades of tobacco.

KLEE: Four grades, really.

WILSON: Right. Always have . . . should have a throw-out pile, sure, for damage.

KLEE: course you'll sell that, but . . .

WILSON: Yeah, sometimes it sells good as anything. They, you know . . .

KLEE: Depends on what their demands are.

WILSON: Yes, that's right. That's right.

KLEE: Now as far as mechanical changes over the years, what . . . what do you think's been most significant there, or have there . . . you mentioned the setter. Do you subscribe to any of the new harvesting . . .

WILSON: Well I guess probably the biggest . . . the biggest labor . . . labor-saver we have is sucker control. cause I remember when . . . when I first started here, I'd go out early in the morning and start to break suckers and you'd get to the end of the row and empty your shoes, empty the water on out, put them on and go to the other end. It was that wet. But . . . but it was a matter of necessity. And then of course, after that . . . see they used to sucker tobacco completely the first time over. Suckered clear down. And then they would sucker it another time and another time, if necessary. This is quite a long time ago. Well then they . . . they got to the place where they would leave two suckers in the top. And then the growth would go to those suckers instead of producing new ones. And then just ahead, a day or two ahead of the spear and knife, they'd go through there and you usually had to cut those top suckers. They were so tough you couldn't break them. And you'd cut those out and that saved labor. And then spray came along and probably the . . . the spray, the MH30, the spray for sucker control is . . . is the biggest labor saver we have today. Other than that . . . other than that, little change in the setter and the fact that we use tractors instead of horses, everything's the same.

KLEE: Just about the time.

WILSON: The same way as it was a hundred years ago. Not that much change.

KLEE: Curing tobacco . . . farmers, I think used to . . . to try to help it along more than they do now. Do you remember using coke or . . .


KLEE: You-all didn't do that?

WILSON: No. No. We . . . I put a gas system in once. As a matter of fact, you can see the remnants of it here. It was not satisfactory because the gas had . . . gas has a natural moisture content to it when it burns. I found out that . . . that just good ventilation was better than trying to . . . now they . . . they used . . . some fellows used to use coke. And then coke got so expensive that they can't use it anymore. The thing today is fans in the barn.

KLEE: Um, hmm.

WILSON: These can be mounted on the end of the barn. They can even . . . some of them are even mounted up on the rail in the barn so that they force air down through the tobacco. This is the . . . this is the current thinking on curing tobacco, is fans. Plenty of ventilation.

KLEE: We talked about the stripping and . . . when . . . are you . . . do you still hand-tie or do you bale or . . .

WILSON: The last crop I raised, which is two years ago, we hand-tied it. I haven't . . . I didn't raise it last year and I got it rented this year. It'll be baled. Yes, and if I raised another crop, which you can see, I've taken my old press out . . . still got the wall presses out . . . I would bale another crop.

KLEE: Yeah, I see. What do you . . . what do you think the . . . course that's another labor-saving thing too. You think the farmers loses anything by baling?

WILSON: No, I think it's . . . I . . . I think that probably there is so much tobacco baled today that a hand-tied crop maybe starts to look a little bit out of place on the floor. Plus the fact that when . . . the companies now are sort of set up to handle baled tobacco, and they have to handle hand-tied, now, in a little different process. If you've been up to Parker, you've see it.

KLEE: Yeah, I have.

WILSON: They had to invent their own little thing to mash the hand off. If it's baled tobacco, they don't have to do this.

KLEE: Just run it right through.

WILSON: So I think in another . . . you know, this . . . this came about real quick. I remember. I was working at the warehouse in Maysville when we got the first bale in. And it was odd, and buyers didn't know what to make of it. Some of it, they didn't wanna bid on it and of course now, ninety percent of your tobacco is baled. So, you have to go with the times. You may not like it. I don't like baled tobacco. I don't think it makes a good appearance. I don't think it even looks like tobacco on the warehouse floor. But this is the . . . this is the new trend.

KLEE: Yeah, I was surprised at how quickly that changed. You know, tobacco farmer's really kind of a conservative . . . you know been doing kind of the same thing for the last fifty, sixty years, and to adapt to that so quickly . . .

WILSON: Well, farmers are . . . you know, they're a pretty hard-headed bunch. There's no doubt about that. But you have to understand that . . . that everybody from the University of Kentucky . . . Ira Massie and everybody down to the county agents . . . were selling this idea to the [inaudible]. And they were saying, hey, put in bales and they're . . . bale your tobacco, you can save forty percent of your time. Well, that's not true. You don't save forty percent. But that was the reason a lot of them . . .

KLEE: They switched . . . tell me a little bit about what the farmers' relationship with the warehouseman. How do you pick a . . . a warehouseman, for example? Which warehouse you're gonna sell at?

WILSON: I probably pick . . . you know, I pick a warehouse the same way as you pick an automobile dealer. Probably. Where I think I'm treated fairly, where I think . . . not necessarily that I got the most for my money because I think tobacco sells generally for about the same price whether it's Ripley or Maysville or one house or the other. You form associations in the warehouse. There's not much . . . probably not much loyalty involved, when the farmer . . . comes to the farmer, but you . . . you see, I've always . . . I always have the attitude that when I load a crop of tobacco, that is my tobacco until I decide to let somebody have it. So I can even put it on the warehouse floor and decide I don't wanna sell it here. See? This is my prerogative. Until I am offered a price that I'm satisfied with. So the . . . the relationship between the farmer and the warehouse is mainly the service that he gets from the warehouse, whether he thinks he's been treated right or not. And he, if he feels that he is not . . . hasn't been treated, then go to the warehouse next door. If he wants to, that's his crop.

KLEE: What do you . . . what do you think about raising tobacco today? What . . . what are the . . . what do you think are some of the biggest problems for the tobacco farmer? How do they . . . how can they respond to that?

WILSON: You mean from the standpoint of the health issue or what?

KLEE: Well, no, not from that. I was thinking about just making a living, trying to raise tobacco.

WILSON: Oh I think there's a lot of . . . there's a lot of factors that are gonna determine our tobacco program from now on. Mostly, it's gonna come from the political arena. They have some . . . yeah, I guess . . . you can . . . I don't know of any issue that you could bring up that somebody wouldn't be against it, or for it. We have this to combat today. As a matter of fact, we have even . . . our two state senators, [John] Glenn and [Howard] Metzen-, Metzenbaum, who are not for us. [loud falling noise] I . . . the . . . we're not very big in tobacco here in this part of the country as compared to . . .

KLEE: Say, Kentucky, yeah . . .

WILSON: I think our tobacco crop last year, and I . . . I . . . don't hold me to this figure . . . but I believe in Ohio last year it was something like a $38 million crop. I wonder what our governor would say if suddenly a big corporation decided to locate in Brown County, and gonna have a payroll of $38 dollars. You know, this would be headlines. Oh they . . . they'd crow to high heaven over a $38 dollar industry locating in southern Ohio, and yet we have that same thing here, but we can't get support from these people.

KLEE: Yeah.

WILSON: I . . . I . . . about a month ago, we had some people here from Channel 5 in Cincinnati, their cameras and they're . . . they were making something for the six o'clock news. And I asked the lady reporter, I said, are you gonna come to our tobacco festival next week? "Well, yeah, I'd like to come if you change the name of it." I said, what's the matter with the name? She said, "You got that one little word in there that I don't like." So this is what we combat out there. I . . . during the festival, I had the chance to . . . well, I talked quite a long time there with one of the vice presidents of R. J. Reynolds Company. He's a vice president of leaf or sales or I don't know what. But he said that the problem that the companies have with the government on this health issue . . . and this really upsets me, is the fact that the companies have told . . . the companies have told the government if there's anything harmful or so on in tobacco, tell us what it is, we'll take it out. But nobody, as he said, nobody yet has told us that there's anything harmful. Or if there is, what it is.

KLEE: What it is.

WILSON: Right. We'd take it out, no problem, if you'll tell us what it is. It's . . . it's a big issue. I . . . you know, I sometimes think that I . . . I sometimes think that they have their priorities misplaced. I guess I'd rather see them . . . I don't know of anybody that's ever smoked a cigarette made out of tobacco, gotten in the car and driven down the road and killed somebody because he smoked. I know statistics say that fifty percent of our fatal auto accidents, alcohol is concerned and I . . . I just think the government has a misplaced priority.

KLEE: Pushing against [inaudible] . . .

WILSON: I . . . you know, I'm not . . . I'm not saying it's right or it's wrong. I am just saying that people . . . if I produce it, put it in the market, I am not forcing anybody to buy it. That is your prerogative, take it or leave it. And that's all we're saying to the people. It's your choice. If I don't like milk, then I don't want somebody to . . .

KLEE: Push it off on you [chuckle] . . .

WILSON: . . . and yet the dairy farmer has a right to produce milk as he wants to. But I don't have to buy it.

KLEE: Do . . . well . . .

WILSON: [inaudible] explain this . . .

KLEE: . . . could the . . . I guess tobacco would still be grown if there weren't a program. But it would push out a lot of the little people who grow it?

WILSON: You see, the problem is with . . . it's like a lot of industry today, a lot of our manufacturing. It's gone to Taiwan and Hong Kong . . . Japan . . . and all of this. I'm not enough of an economist to know why this happens, although I have my own ideas, but you see if we . . . and I can't understand our politicians that don't realize this. If they knock the tobacco program out in Brown County, and Kentucky, they they're probably gonna have to build additions to all the welfare offices in these counties, cause we're all gonna be there. I can't understand our politicians, when they wanna do away with our program, which has been . . . and probably the reason is because our representatives in Washington cannot stand success . . . or any program that works. If it works, tear it up. You know. I'm not gonna, I don't wanna get radical here, but you see that seems to be the thing. Our tobacco program has worked for thirty . . . over thirty years now, it's worked. Yet, they wanna do away with it.

KLEE: And you think the result will be foreign . . .

WILSON: The result will be that they'll go to South Africa, Rhodesia, or . . . which is now Zimbabwe . . . Australia, Canada. They're still gonna get the . . . the . . . the required pounds of tobacco to make cigarettes. If we don't raise it, somebody else will. No the . . . the . . . auto manufacturers in Detroit kind of slipped up and let Japan put one over on them, and we're still paying for that. You see the problem is that once a . . . the program works. Not perfect. I'm not saying it is. It's got bugs in it, but it works. We . . . it's something we can live with, it's something we're satisfied with. And I don't see why the government wants to do away with something like this.

[End Tape #1, Side #1]

[Begin Tape #1, Side #2]

KLEE: This is side two of a tape with Russell Wilson. What . . . what accounts for the fact that tobacco farmers seem to have a hard time getting labor, you know, to help them? Particularly around harvest time, stripping time?

WILSON: Well I don't wanna get real political on this. Probably too much welfare. I have hired help that I knew was on the welfare program. They will not take a check because there's a record. "Yeah, I'll work, but you're gonna pay me in cash." I'd say that our . . . our programs of . . . I have to . . . you know, I have to sort of [inaudible] and that way I think these programs hurt.

KLEE: When it makes it . . . if they did get reported income, I guess they'd be thrown out of the program.

WILSON: Well, that's true. course the other thing is minimum wage, which I never could understand. Minimum wage at $3.35, you know, you draw $3.35 whether you work or not. So if you work a little bit, you want more than that. So that's forced our prices up to . . . oh, goodness, I understand some places in Kentucky, they'll pay as high as seven, eight dollars an hour for pretty good hands.

KLEE: Yeah, [inaudible]. Is that . . . is . . . that kind of takes me back to the question for a young man, say, that's, you know, taken over the farm, does . . . is . . . you think that raising tobacco is a promising thing for him? Is that why there's . . . there's . . . it seems to me that tobacco's getting more and more in the hands of a few individuals. Is that because it takes a low of income or . . .

WILSON: Well . . . yeah. Probably has . . . pertains to tobacco, but not only that, but anything. If you could afford . . . you know, if you could afford today to go out and buy a farm and equip it, and start to farm, then you'd make more money to invest it at ten percent somewhere. Because you're not gonna make a ten percent return on the farm operation. So you either farm for the joy of it, and or just to put in time. So the average farmer today, if he could get what his farm was worth, what it was four, five, six years ago when farms sold for a thousand, fifteen, eighteen hundred dollars, if you could get that today, probably the average farmer, myself included, would be better to sell out, invest the money for the ten percent, and let somebody else worry.

KLEE: Worry about it.

WILSON: Right. The only thing that keeps me here is the fact that it's the last . . . probably the last vestige of independence left in the country. And even . . . even . . . even . . . not in tobacco, but even in agriculture, it's become . . . and I don't wanna sound anti-anything here, but it's becoming unionized. There's not longer the independence, and farmers like to think that they're independent. You don't tell me what to do, and yet the government, every day, tells us what to do.

KLEE: Do you think that's . . . is . . . is that something that distinguishes the tobacco farmer, say, from the big soybean and corn operations?

WILSON: Oh, I don't believe so. I don't think so. I . . . I think that anybody . . . anybody in agriculture of any kind faces this problem. Oh, absolutely.

KLEE: And they . . . you think they all feel that independence is pretty much the same?

WILSON: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, you're . . . you're a teacher. You face teacher problems, and I know what some of these area. You're worried about retirement. You're worried about pay scales. You're worried about tenure, you know. So your . . . you have problems too. We all have problems. Yet, there's a lot of parallels between these two. I hate . . . I really . . . I guess I'm concerned . . . my long-term concern is that, not only . . . that also in the tobacco business this is gonna happen. That foreign interests and big conglomerates will, in the next twenty, twenty-five years, are gonna control agriculture in this country. And when that happens, you will have a man that will work eight hours a day and let the fruit rot because it's four o'clock and I'm going home. Or put me on overtime. We have some symptoms of this today in this state. I don't know whether you have any in Kentucky or not.

KLEE: Well that kind of bodes poorly, probably, for Kentucky and . . . and Ohio. I mean, talking about our area.

WILSON: Right.

KLEE: Because we don't have the . . . the farm land that . . . that really will allow for that large-scale type operation.

WILSON: We don't have it. Southwestern Kentucky has some area . . . down in Bowling Green . . . but this is what worries me a little bit. And I . . . I guess this is what makes me say that the . . . the tobacco farmer, like myself, with some pounds that we can sell at a . . . you know, guaranteed sort of a price, is . . . is the last vestige of really independence in agriculture. cause now, just for instance, if you get in PIK Program [Payment In Kind], which made the grain farmer . . . he's no longer [chuckle] . . . he's no longer independent, now, see. He's given up his independence.

KLEE: Relying on that . . . that PIK a lot.

WILSON: And I think as long as I can have a vote as to whether we're gonna maintain a tobacco program, as long as I can have a vote for it, I'm happy. When somebody else starts to vote for me, then I'm gonna become very unhappy.

KLEE: Yeah, and that is something that a lot of people don't realize, that the farmers themselves decide on that.


KLEE: I guess price and how the program's gonna be run.

WILSON: And of course one of the biggest misunderstandings our here and you hear commentators on the radio and television, in newspapers and magazines, they refer . . . they refer to tobacco as being a subsidized program and it is not subsidized. I've got . . . I can get you stacks of literature from the University of Kentucky that'll show you that tobacco is not a subsidized product. The . . . over the years since . . . I just happened to remember this figure, over the years since the tobacco program came in which was 'way back in the 30's, the government has expended fifty-eight million dollars, give or take a little, for the tobacco program. This is going into administration. They hire the government graders. They have us on administrative costs, but over . . . gee, from thirty . . . over fifty years, almost, the government has expended fifty-eight million dollars on a crop that has made them billions in taxes, excise . . . cigarette taxes, everything. I . . . I just can't understand some of these politicians.

KLEE: And then the . . . the . . . to ad, I guess, injury to injury, this no-net cost I guess has come in now.

WILSON: Well, no-net cost, last year it was just a penny or two a pound. This year, they say it's gonna be at least seven cents a pound.

KLEE: For some of these farmers that had to lease some tobacco to grow, that's gonna be the difference between making money and . . .

WILSON: Particularly in a short crop year.

KLEE: . . . in a short crop year.

WILSON: Because the . . . I just saw a Maysville paper yesterday . . . day before yesterday. They figure the tobacco crop in Kentucky this year, is gonna be sixty percent short. So . . . we all face problems. Thank goodness we didn't come in with a crop like we had last year. I'll take that short crop this year.

KLEE: Had there been a big crop, I guess there would have been more .

WILSON: Oh, [inaudible] what to do.

KLEE: Sure. Do you think the idea that this year there is a short crop will preserve the program a little longer? Oh absolutely. Absolutely. Well, you see, what . . . I don't know how much you keep up with this, but you see what . . . how much the burley co-op has sold in the last month out of their supply.

KLEE: Right. [inaudible]

WILSON: Oh yeah, they've had . . . goodness. One week, they sold thirty million. The next week forty million, and they only had a hundred and some maybe to start with. So, yeah . . .

KLEE: This will keep it up a little bit.

WILSON: Oh yeah. Work off a lot of surplus.

KLEE: Well I appreciate you talking to me today.


[End Tape #1, Side #2]

[End of Interview]