U.S. Growers Direct was slow to get contracts out, and many weren’t approved until February. Georgia and Florida growers, Moore said, are slated to supply as much as 15 million pounds of tobacco to the new company.

“Growers were very much ready to use their barns, equipment, land and know-how and jumped on the contracts,” he said.

Also, Georgia tobacco farmers recently petitioned Phillip Morris USA to once again do business with them, Moore said. The company agreed, but it will pay Georgia tobacco growers 10 cents less per pound than other growers they do business with.

Moore was surprised to see a heavy response by Georgia growers to this offer and many signed up for one-year contracts to deliver tobacco to Phillip Morris USA in Moultrie, Ga., later this year.

“All of this together has created some hope with growers, and they look to increase their production beyond last year,” Moore said.

Starting in the late 1960s, tobacco was big business in Georgia, worth well over $100 million annually. It reached its zenith in 1996 with a farm value of $206 million. It was worth $47 million in 2009.

Moore estimates only 225 farmers now grow tobacco in Georgia. In 2004, there were 1,000 Georgia tobacco farmers. That same year, the federal government ended its Depression-era tobacco quota program at the growers' request. It provided price support but restricted how much they could grow and where. Growers and quota owners were compensated for the end of the program, which started the tobacco decline in Georgia. Farmers now grow as much tobacco as they need to fill contracts they can get.