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December 18, 2017

Feature Commodity: Tobacco

Explore the commodity of tobacco.

Tobacco is a crop that has been grown in the United States for a long time. It is still grown in many southern states, though not nearly in the acreage that it once was. Despite the decline in tobacco acres, it is still an important commodity in the U.S. Explore the details of the tobacco commodity below.

Tobacco Industry History

The tobacco plant itself is believed to have originated in the Peruvian Andes, with many Native American tribes using tobacco in some form or another long before Columbus set foot on the American continent. Europeans learned of tobacco from Native Americans, and it spread across the world from there.

The plant played an important role in the history of the U.S., according to Breed’s Collection of 
Tobacco History Sites
. Tobacco was grown in the colonies, including in Jamestown which survived in part by exporting the cash crop to England. Lewis and Clark brought a great deal of tobacco on their trip west to the Pacific to use as a trade item. The plant was even used as currency at many different points in time, such as on the frontier.

In the 1970s, according to the Agricultural Marketing Research Center (AgMRC), tobacco production was around 2 billion pounds per year. As tobacco use has fallen out of popularity because of health concerns, the demand for tobacco has decreased in the U.S. Correspondingly, U.S. production was reduced to 629 million pounds in 2016.

Current Tobacco Data

Tobacco is grown in many southern states. The top five states growing tobacco in the U.S. are Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. According to AgMRC data, while approximately 15 percent of the U.S. adult population uses tobacco, down from 42 percent in the 1960s, there are many parts of the world, primarily in developing nations, where tobacco use is on the rise.

Those 629 million pounds of tobacco grown in 2016 were grown on 319 thousand acres. The total value of tobacco production in 2016 was over $1.3 billion.

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