Congress struggles with tobacco buyout

Three-fourths of the House Agriculture Committee is ready to go with a tobacco buyout, but “the House leadership and the committee chairman aren't willing to give us a vote until they see what the Senate does,” says U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.

Earlier, the House reached consensus on a bill that would end the quota system and compensate tobacco growers. The Senate has also introduced a bill that would compensate growers as well as give FDA regulatory authority over cigarettes. In November, there was an effort to attach the tobacco buyout to an appropriations bill.

The FDA portion of the Senate bill hit a snag because of Republican and Democratic differences.

“Four or five other congressman have told Chairman Goodlatte the dire importance of the tobacco buyout to people in tobacco states,” McIntyre says.

In an interview with Southeast Farm Press at an ag luncheon in Bladen County, N.C., McIntyre said he continues to stress the importance of the buyout legislation in tobacco states.

“I talked with Ag Secretary Ann Veneman and told her we've got to have the Administration's support on this,” McIntyre says. “When I see her, she knows what I'm going to talk about.”

McIntyre said there's a 50-50 chance of a buyout attached to an appropriations bill this year. Should a buyout not be approved this year, McIntyre expects the Congress to address the issue at the first of the year.

In the House, the $15.7 billion legislation is forged from a compromise of several different measures. McIntyre, along with U.S. Reps. Bob Etheridge, D-N.C., Ernie Fletcher, R-Ky., and Virgil Goode, R-Va., introduced the House bill. The Senate previously introduced a $13 billion bill.

The hallmark of both bills is “$8 and $4” - $8 for quota owners and $4 for growers.

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