Tobacco allotments can only be explained within the context of other terms. The US Department of Agriculture administers a price support program that controls the amount of tobacco grown each year in the US. There is a total quota of pounds of tobacco to be grown based on expected demand. This total is divided among property owners into their individual quota, which is called a tobacco allotment. This allotment is actually a license to sell certain poundage of tobacco. Historically this is what a tobacco allotment was used for.

There exists a Master Settlement Agreement (MSA} between the tobacco industry and 46 states which settled all lawsuits filed by those states against the tobacco industry. Allotments are becoming important in a different way now. As states attempt to find ways to reduce tobacco farming for public health concerns and as the MSA gains monies from the tobacco industry some states use the monies gained to help ex tobacco farmers transition to other cash crops. Allotments are sometimes used to determine the size of monetary help an individual allotment holder may receive.

An allotment can be (and often was/is) detached from the land and can be sold, rented or willed to heirs. Allotment holders have often been portrayed as poor “dirt farmers” but in reality many allotment holders don’t even live in the state. This calls into question who is actually helped, the farmer or the big business man owning many allotments.

Further muddying the water is the simultaneous use of the word “allotment” for the amount of monies individual states will receive from the MSA.

On a personal note; my mother's side of the family held a tobacco allotment on our family farm in the southwest tip of Virginia for generations. It brought in enough to pay the taxes on "the farm" usually by NOT growing tobacco although I do remember as a child it was sometimes rented out to the local preacher who did grow tobacco on it.

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