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Tobacco Farmers Stage ‘Tractorcade’

March 1, 1999

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ About 500 tractors snarled downtown traffic Monday in a demonstration by tobacco farmers demanding at least half of North Carolina’s $4.6 billion settlement with cigarette makers.

``We do not want to see one more tobacco farmer put out of business as the result of this attempt at prohibition of tobacco products by politicians and lawyers,″ said farmer Jimmy Lee, who helped organize the ``tractorcade.″

The farmers, who had a parade permit for the protest, began the demonstration around 9 a.m., with the tractors making their way from the State Fairgrounds past the state Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion about five miles away. At least one tractor had a farmer hanging from it in effigy.

With the weekly legislative session not scheduled to begin until Monday night, few lawmakers were in town in the morning.

``They’re hot. They don’t feel like they’ve been heard in the negotiations,″ said state Rep. Leslie Cox, who represents a tobacco-growing district and received the farmers’ demands. ``They’ve had no place at the table.″

Lawmakers are expected to begin debating soon how to spend the $4.6 billion.

Cigarette companies have pledged to give an additional $2 billion to help North Carolina farmers and communities that depend on tobacco. But farmers say they want their livelihoods secured with the original settlement.

``This whole thing today is not about money. It’s about security,″ Lee said.

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