With spring arriving, farmers across Eastern North Carolina feel a sense of hope as crops begin to rise from the soil.
"Springtime for me, it makes your heart pump a little faster -- the excitement of getting over winter, starting a crop," said John Weaver, a farmer in the Johnston County community of Kenly.
His hope is his green tobacco leaves provide a different kind of green -- cash. Weaver has worked toward being successful the honest way -- something not all of his fellow farmers can say.
A federal probe discovered dozens of farmers in Eastern North Carolina, primarily in Wilson County, defrauded the federal crop insurance program for a staggering $100 million.
The federal program is intended to protect farmers against the loss of crops due to natural disasters.
But a number of Eastern North Carolina farmers, insurance agents, claims adjusters and brokers have cheated the system. Essentially, some filed claims of false losses to get insurance money and then sold the crops they had "hidden" from the government for more cash.
It took advantage of an insurance program that farmers find essential to balance their risk. Weaver, for example, said he pays about $40,000 a year in crop insurance.
"We can't afford to farm without crop insurance," Weaver said.
Weaver called the fraud "greed."
"I mean, that's all it is," he said.
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