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ECU conference studies tobacco

GREENVILLE, NC   (Feb. 15, 2002)   —   A midway screamer at the state fair can't match the upside-down roller coaster ridden by tobacco farmers and rural communities in recent years. And North Carolina's agriculture commissioner is likely to make that point when she headlines a conference on tobacco at East Carolina University later this month.
Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps will give the opening day keynote address on Feb. 28 at the two-day "Curing the Future: Issues and Strategies for Remaking Tobacco-Dependent Communities in Eastern North Carolina" conference. The sessions will continue through Mar. 1, at the Pitt County Agriculture Center.
Funded by the Golden LEAF Foundation, the ECU Department of Geography will serve as the conference's host.
"The purpose is to examine the impacts of rural restructuring in the state's tobacco dependent communities and to explore future development alternatives," said Dr. Holly Hapke, a professor of geography
She said that along with Commissioner Phipps, the program will include talks and panel discussions by agriculture and economic experts who will address topics such as restructuring the tobacco farming areas, finding alternative crops, using new technologies, economic activities and the future prospects for tobacco-dependent communities. Exhibits will also be on display.
Farmers, rural community members, county planners, politicians, teachers, agriculture equipment suppliers and tobacco industry representatives are invited.
The program will be with welcoming comments by ECU Chancellor William Muse and by Golden Leaf Foundation president Valeria Lee. Phipps' remarks are scheduled for 9 a.m.
The morning and early sessions will focus on globalization, tobacco and rural communities. Billy Ray Hall, president of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, will give the luncheon address. Later in the day, the topics will turn to alternative crops and farm income diversification.
Sessions on Friday will include producer alliances and farmer-owned value-added business and strategies for community development in tobacco-dependent counties. U.S. Rep. Eva Clayton will give remarks in the morning. Dennis Mullen, the president and CEO for Agrilink (Birdseye Vegetables) will give the keynote address at the noon luncheon.
Advanced registration (by Feb. 21) is $15 and includes meals and conference materials. Information is available at the ECU Department of Geography and by calling 252-328-1041 or 1039. Registration waivers are also available.