Philip Morris U.S.A. (PM U.S.A.) has announced further details about the expansion of its Tobacco Farmer Partnering Program.

Last November, the company announced that it would expand its Tobacco Farmer Partnering Program for the 2001-2002 season to include flue-cured as well as burley tobacco growers. The company now is concluding a pilot program with burley tobacco growers.

"As the country's largest tobacco buyer, we are concerned both about the welfare of American farmers, as well as the availability of high quality American-grown tobacco," explained Michael A. Farriss, vice president of Leaf for PM USA. "Because our Burley Pilot Program was so well received by growers, we decided to extend the partnering program to flue-cured growers and to expand the scope for burley growers for the upcoming season. We believe that our Tobacco Farmer Partnering Program will help provide participating growers with a reliable and steady source of income."

The company has selected 11 businesses to serve as agents/receiving station operators for flue-cured growers. As agents, these businesses will solicit offers from growers for partnering agreements. As receiving station operators, they will provide a facility for participating growers to deliver their tobacco.

Those businesses include:

Bill Barker/Jim Eggleston, Agents

Danville, Va. 1-804-793-3733

Graham Knott, Agent Kinston, N.C. 1-252-523-3996

Billy Wilkinson, Agent South Hill, Va. 1-804-447-8149

Bob Battle, Agent Mullins, S.C. 1-843-526-2131

Frank Lee, Agent Smithfield, N.C. 1-919-934-2700 1-877-934-2700

Ford Brewer, Agent Valdosta, Ga. 1-904-719-1222

Tommy Faulkner, Agent Wilson, N.C. 1-252-206-1118 1-252-363-5500

David Stephenson/Gary Powers, Agents Lumberton, N.C. 1-910-739-3325 1-910-739-6303

Julian Rigby, Agent Alma, Ga. 1-912-632-7312

Lester Warren, Agent Robertsonville, N.C. 1-252-237-6719

Scott Pope, Agent Winston-Salem, N.C. 1-336-996-6004

Partnering agreements were available to growers as of Monday, Feb. 5. Flue-cured growers who are interested in applying to participate in the Philip Morris USA Tobacco Farmer Partnering Program should contact the agent of his or her choice.

In addition to buying directly from farmers, PM USA also will purchase a portion of its burley and flue-cured tobacco requirements through the auction system for the 2001-2002 season.

Because PM USA is purchasing tobacco under both its partnering program and at auction, the company cannot guarantee it will accept offers for partnering agreements from all interested growers.

The Tobacco Farmer Partnering Program is designed to operate within the framework of the Federal Tobacco Program. PM USA will purchase the entire crop that a participating grower can sell without penalty under the Federal Tobacco Program.

Interested farmers can contact any of the agents listed above, or call PM USA directly at 1-877-PMORRIS (766-7747).