Tobacco buyout guidelines offered

Congress could more easily support a tobacco buyout that doesn't involve public funds than one that draws from public funds, a key aide to the chairman of the House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee says. And support for a peanut buyout could set the stage for similar action in tobacco.

Speaking to a group at the recent Tobacco Workers Conference, Ben Miller, an aide to Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., said that buyout legislation needs to come from tobacco states and should likely involve “a proposal that looks at Phase II funds as a way to contribute to a buyout.”

The tobacco industry needs to explore options that don't include the public coffers, Miller told the group. The Environmental Working Group's Website listing recipients of federal farm program subsidies is making it “harder to defend such large sums.”

In addition, the battle over budget funds continues. Last year, the budget resolution contained $73 billion for agriculture. But things are likely to get tighter this year.

“You really do need to be creative in how you handle this situation,” Miller told the group. “The days of emergency funding are over for now.”

A tobacco buyout is not an easy sell, Miller says. “It will be very difficult to get this vote through, but it will be a lot easier if it's paid for.” He points out there are only 15 to 20 states with a tobacco presence.

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