In Kentucky, rat-a-tat auctioneer chants at tobacco warehouses becoming a dying art

IndustriesAssociated Press

Tripp Foy's sing-song chant rang out like a sentimental oldie for die-hard farmers clinging to the old way of selling tobacco in Kentucky. A small procession of buyers shadowed the tobacco auctioneer down long rows of reddish-brown leaf piled in bales.

Farmers who have spent their lives tending the aromatic crop find comfort in Foy's rat-a-tat style.

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The tobacco-belt tradition, once as much a part of Kentucky's fabric as bourbon or horse racing, is fading away — and it's taking the maestros like Foy with it. The auction system has been all but snuffed out by another way of selling tobacco after years of declining smoking rates.

Now, most burley is sold under contracts between farmers and tobacco companies. The new system cut out warehouse operators as middle men.