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Burley auction season begins for few sellers that remain

MOUNT STERLING — Limited burley tobacco auctions are opening in Kentucky as some farmers cling to the traditional method of selling leaf.

The auctioneer's chant rang out Thursday at Clay Tobacco Warehouse in Mount Sterling, where about 302,000 pounds of leaf sold. Sales opened earlier this week at Farmers Tobacco Warehouse in Danville, where warehouse owner Jerry Rankin says 270,000 pounds of burley sold on opening day.

Sales are expected later this month at a Lexington tobacco warehouse.

The auctions will continue in coming weeks and are the last vestige of a system that has mostly disappeared since the end of the federal tobacco program.

The auctions have mostly given way to contract sales between growers and tobacco companies.

Kentucky farmers are expected to produce about 145 million pounds of burley this year, down from 154 million pounds last year.