RE: Tobacco Crops & Public Health - Arnold Hamm, 10/28/00 11:20AM
For sometime there has been a dialogue between the public community and tobacco farmers. This dialogue has caused a vast gap of misunderstanding to be bridged between both groups. Involved public health officials are aware of the efforts of tobacco farmers to diversify their agricultural base, the failures of these attempts to diversify and the struggle to stay on the farm as their primary source of income diminishes. If the solution were as simple as diversification, tobacco farmers would have diversified to other crops long ago.
In reference to your statement that tobacco should not be produced in the US; there is no moral high ground achieved in producing tobacco in other countries. US tobacco farmers produce one of the most highly regulated crops in the US. Compared to tobacco production elsewhere, our EPA sets higher standards regarding pesticide use, we have strict child labor laws, and believe it or not, tobacco is more friendly to the environment than many other crops grown in the US.
Please put yourself in a position to learn more of these facts. You would certainly be welcomed into this dialogue if you come with an open mind and try to understand the difficult times faced by thousands of farm families. Tobacco farmers are proud people, they don't want handouts and they don't want to do piecework in an underwear factory created by some rural economic development program.
The tobacco farmers need viable solutions to complex problems. Only with compassion and understanding can this be achieved.