Feb. 3 2000
Washington, DC - Philip Morris’ decision to implement direct contracting is the latest step in Big Tobacco’s efforts to maximize its profits at the expense of the American tobacco farmer. If successful, this plan will eventually put thousands of family tobacco farms out of business by replacing them with large agribusinesses under the tight control of Philip Morris. It also threatens to destroy the current tobacco price-support and auction systems. Philip Morris’ move comes as no surprise. While the U.S. cigarette companies have sought political advantage by claiming to be the defenders of the tobacco farmer, the truth is they have been betraying farmers’ interests for years, as documented in the False Friends report released on December 14, 1999, by the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. This report showed that the U.S. cigarette companies have sacrificed the economic well-being of the American tobacco farmer by manufacturing more of their products overseas, using more foreign-grown tobacco in the cigarettes they make both domestically and abroad, and aggressively financing the development of new and cheaper sources of tobacco to replace U.S. growers. As a result, the cigarette companies have cut their purchases of U.S.-grown tobacco in half since 1995. Direct contracting is the logical next step to squeeze the tobacco farmer and maximize cigarette company profits. This decision is also a powerful reminder to tobacco farmers that their interests and the interests of the cigarette companies are not the same and in fact conflict. It underscores the need for growers, their elected leaders, and the public health community to work together to find solutions that both protect public health and help growers and their communities make the transition to a more secure economic future. We stand ready to intensify this effort.