Tobacco Quota-Buyout Legislation Falls Short of Providing Help Growers Say They Need

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jul. 30 2003

Washington, D.C. — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is pleased to see that serious debate has finally begun in Congress on legislation to assist tobacco growers by restructuring the current federal tobacco program and buying out quota holders. We have urged Congress to act for over two years and, with all of the leading tobacco grower organizations, have endorsed a set of minimum standards to evaluate such legislation. Buyout bills introduced in the House this year (H.R. 245) by U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-KY) and last year in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC) meet those standards and have been endorsed by numerous public health and tobacco grower organizations.

Tobacco quota-buyout legislation introduced today by tobacco-state Senators opens the debate in the Senate, but falls short of the economic assistance that tobacco growers have said they need and public health organizations have endorsed. This legislation also falls short of the recommendations unanimously proposed in the May 2001 final report of a Presidential commission consisting equally of tobacco grower and public health representatives (the President’s Commission on Improving Economic Opportunity in Communities Dependent on Tobacco Production While Protecting Public Health). It is hard for us to understand why tobacco-state Senators have proposed a weaker package of economic assistance for tobacco growers than the growers say they need and the public health community will support.

We look forward to working with tobacco growers and Members of Congress to address both the economic crisis facing tobacco farmers and their communities and the public health crisis caused by tobacco use in the United States. If legislation is to pass this year, it will require a coalition that includes both Members of Congress who represent tobacco growers and Members who traditionally are with the public health community. As we have said before, we do not oppose linking a buyout proposal endorsed by the leading farm groups with legislation endorsed by the leading public health groups to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jurisdiction over manufactured tobacco products. At the same time, we will vigorously oppose any legislation or legislative process that we believe could lead to the enactment of weak FDA legislation that does more to protect tobacco manufacturers than the public health.

Time is short. Legislation can pass this year, but only if the senior members of Congress from both parties come together and reach agreement quickly.

 

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