Congressman Fletcher’s Bill Will… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Congressman Fletcher’s Bill Will Assist Tobacco Farmers And Address the Economic Crisis in Tobacco Growing Communities

January 08, 2003

Washington, D.C. — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids announced their support for legislation introduced today by Congressman Ernie Fletcher (R-KY) to assist our nation's tobacco farmers and communities that depend on tobacco farming. The legislation would restructure the federal tobacco program and provide farmers and communities with economic transition assistance to reduce their dependence on tobacco.

The Campaign praised the legislation for including a price support program, limiting production and providing incentives for some farmers to stop growing tobacco. These provisions are critical to the long-term financial health and stability of tobacco growing communities.

This legislation is very similar to the recommendations unanimously adopted in 2001 by the President's Commission on Improving Economic Opportunity in Communities Dependent on Tobacco Production while Protecting Public Health. The Commission consisted of an equal number of tobacco growers and public health advocates as well as economic development experts. Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, was a co-chair of the commission.

'We must solve both the public health crisis caused by tobacco use and the economic crisis facing tobacco farmers and communities. The bill introduced by Congressman Fletcher is an important step toward achieving these goals. The support of leading public health organizations for this legislation is the type of historic partnership between the public health community and the tobacco growing community that will be critical to accomplishing our mutual goals of assisting tobacco farmers and their communities while promoting the public health. We urge Congress to act quickly both to help tobacco farmers and to grant the FDA meaningful authority over tobacco products,' said Myers.

The Commission also endorsed Congress granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration meaningful authority over tobacco products comparable to the authority it has over other products.

The decline in the amount of tobacco that U.S. farmers are allowed to grow under the tobacco program's quota system, which is largely the result of U.S. tobacco companies increased use of foreign-grown tobacco, has had a devastating effect on tobacco farmers and tobacco-dependent communities. It is now up to the government to fix the current system, which it created, and adopt a new, restructured tobacco program.

The Fletcher legislation would end the current tobacco quota system, compensate quota owners and growers for the loss in the value of their assets, and establish a production permit system for active growers.

The legislation also establishes a non-profit corporation, the Center for Tobacco-Dependent Communities, to provide assistance to communities making a transition from tobacco-based economies. The Center would provide technical assistance; conduct workshops and conferences; serve as a clearinghouse for best practices; and provide research and policy development to help communities shift away from tobacco dependence and create new economic opportunities.