President=s Tobacco Commission Economic Development Sub-Committee Recommendations
1. Create a regional Center for Tobacco Dependent Communities through direct Congressional charter and appropriation to actively assist communities transitioning from tobacco-based economies. The proposed legislation will:
Authorize to be established a non-profit corporation that is not an agency or establishment of the United States Government.
Direct the Board of Directors to be composed of 7 members, 6 to be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, with no more than 3 members from one political party, plus the Executive Director, to be appointed by the Board.
o Board members are to be eminent in the fields of rural development, especially small crop agriculture, industrial development, community development, and entrepreneurship and small business development and have experience and knowledge appropriate to the responsibilities of the Center.
o Board members shall serve staggered 4 year terms with 3 members serving an initial 2 year term and 3 members serving an initial 4 year term.
Establish in the Treasury a self-liquidating trust fund sufficient to provide an annual revenue stream to the Center of $5 M annually for at least 10 years.
Authorize the Center to receive, in addition to public funds, private bequeaths and donations, foundation and other grant awards.
Direct the members of the initial Board to serve as incorporators and authorize them to take whatever actions are necessary to establish the Center for Tobacco Dependent Communities.
Direct the Center to serve the 568 counties identified as tobacco-dependent by USDA=s Economic Research Service, with particular focus on the 80 counties that derive more than 5% of their county income from tobacco production.
Establish that the purpose and objective of the Center is to be an active agent of economic and community development assistance for communities transitioning from tobacco-based economies, with a particular emphasis on agricultural development and entrepreneurship. In keeping with the Center=s purpose the Center shall:
o Provide communities and farmers with targeted technical assistance
o Convene meetings, conduct workshops and conferences
o Act as a clearinghouse for best practices
o Provide research and policy development
o Advocate for communities transitioning from tobacco-based economies
o Provide up to $1M each year for grant-making activities, such as challenge grants, community mini-grants and technical assistance grants, and pilot demonstrations.
2. Leverage federal economic and business development program funds (grants and loans) and create an interagency awareness of and commitment to transitioning tobacco-based economies at the federal level.
3. Create a federal interagency working group at the assistant secretary level for coordination and targeting of federal economic and business development program funds (grants and loans) to transitioning tobacco-based communities. The working group should be mandated work closely with the Center for Tobacco Dependent Communities.
4. Create an incentive for tobacco farmers, allotment holders, and others receiving phase II and other buyout or indemnification payments, to use those funds to capitalize new business ventures, on-farm or off-farm, that have the potential to create new economic activity and community revenue. The incentive should be market-based, for example preferential tax treatment if funds are invested within a certain amount of time for business activities.