By BRUCE SCHREINER and RANDALL DICKERSON / Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Burley tobacco farmers in Kentucky and Tennessee are reaping some of their best paydays since plunging into the free market.
Growers are capitalizing on tight leaf supplies and a quality crop that bounced back from an early-season drought.
Farmers are being rewarded with burley prices near or at $2 per pound so far during the marketing season.
University of Kentucky agricultural economist Will Snell says that nearly matches the prices burley fetched in 2004. That's the last year growers sold their crop under federal production and price controls.
After years of being squeezed by sluggish prices, higher production costs and uncertain demand, burley farmers are welcoming the return of more robust prices.