Jul. 24 2003
Washington, D.C. — The testimony at a U.S. House Agriculture Committee hearing today was clear: There is strong consensus among tobacco growers and public health organizations on the details of an economic assistance plan for tobacco growers that includes a tobacco-quota buyout and restructuring of the federal tobacco program. This consensus is reflected in legislation, H.R. 245, introduced by U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-KY). This consensus was broken only by the strong opposition of the tobacco companies, who made it clear in their testimony that they do not want to help the growers. To date, this legislation has not moved because of the failure of many tobacco-state Members of Congress to stand up to the tobacco manufacturers and protect farmers' interests.
We understand that some Senators from tobacco-growing states have said they are preparing to introduce their own tobacco-buyout legislation shortly. We hope that this legislation does not fall below the standards that were endorsed today by tobacco growers and are included in the Fletcher bill. We urge tobacco-state Senators and Representatives not to propose a weaker package of assistance for tobacco growers than the one endorsed by a broad range of tobacco grower organizations, as well as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The Fletcher bill reflects the recommendations of the 2001 final report of the President's Commission on Improving Economic Opportunity in Communities Dependent on Tobacco Production While Protecting Public Health, which consisted equally of tobacco grower and public health representatives. The Commission also endorsed granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration effective authority over manufactured tobacco products. Growers and public health leaders today again agreed on the need for FDA legislation. If legislation is to pass this year, it will require a coalition that includes both Members of Congress who support tobacco growers and Members who traditionally are with the public health community. Unfortunately, Members of Congress from tobacco-growing states so far have not made an effort to work on FDA legislation with the public health community or Members of Congress who traditionally represent public health interests. Effective FDA legislation cannot be developed without the involvement of the public health community or champions of public health in Congress.