Tobacco Buyout - Paul McKinney, 2/14/01 10:03PM
February 14, 2001
In response to the Tobacco Commission Report and request for public comments, I would like to present my comments to the Commission.
As a tobacco farmer who has been in business for almost 30 years, I have seen huge changes in the business of growing tobacco. About 5 years ago, we tobacco farmers were lead to believe that the government was our worst enemy. We were encouraged by the tobacco companies to write our senators and congressmen to stop government interference in the tobacco industry. Since that time, most tobacco farmers have come to realize that the government wasn’t our enemy, but rather the tobacco companies themselves. While they were asking us to write letters on their behalf, they were adding more nicotine and chemicals to our tobacco to make it more addictive and less healthy than it already is. At the same time, the tobacco companies were going into countries such as Mexico, and several African countries, teaching them how to grow tobacco, so that it could be shipped back into the United States. Much of it is grown with chemicals that are restricted from use by American tobacco farmers. These practices by tobacco companies have caused a product that is not only more dangerous to consumers, but have created an over burdensome supply of US tobacco, causing the government to buy out over $500 million dollars worth of tobacco from pool stocks.
Each year, with the cost of production increasing, we tobacco farmers make less. On my farm, I grow about 25 acres of type 22 dark fired tobacco. The prices paid on loose floors in Clarksville and Springfield, Tennessee, as well as Hopkinsville, Kentucky for the 2000 crop are about 80 cents per pound less than the 1999 crop. With fertilizer prices expected to be much higher due to natural gas prices, and the cost of labor increasing almost one dollar per hour, the prospects for the 2001 crop are not very good.
As a Vietnam veteran, I have experienced war. Now, at almost 57 years old, I am back in another battle, which in many ways is more stressful than Vietnam. The tobacco companies have millions of dollars to contribute to political campaigns, which they have made off the sweat of our brows. We tobacco farmers have nothing to give. It takes everything we make to pay bills. Therefore, we are asking you to do everything possible to see to it that the tobacco buyout becomes a reality. We tobacco farmers simply want out of this war in a dignified and honorable way.