Tenant growers sought for tobacco fund; applications going out today to farm operators
FRANKFORT -- Kentucky is trying to find 1998 tobacco tenant farmers who might be eligible for money from a $5.15 billion trust fund set up by the tobacco industry.
Gov. Paul Patton said yesterday that the state will mail out today 125,000 applications for compensation to last year's Kentucky farm operators, identified through U.S. Department of Agriculture records.
But he said the state lacks records on tenant farmers.
There could be as many as 30,000 to 40,000 tenant farmers eligible for the compensation, said John-Mark Hack, Patton's agriculture policy director. ``They are the most vulnerable to being left out,'' he said.
Kentucky's tobacco farmers will share nearly $113 million in the first year of payments from the national farm trust. They will get $1.5 billion over 12 years.
The trust was established in connection with the tobacco industry's $246 billion legal settlement of state lawsuits.
Called Phase 2 of the national settlement, the trust is designed to offer direct compensation to leaf growers whose livelihood could be hurt as a fallout from the settlement and shrinking demand for cigarettes. The farm aid will be paid out over 12 years.
Patton stressed yesterday that the applications must be completed and postmarked by Oct. 8.
``Don't put it off. Start working on it Monday,'' Patton said during a news conference in the Capitol with Hack and Agriculture Commissioner Billy Ray Smith.
Hack said farmers are accustomed to receiving deadline extensions when applying for disaster aid and the like. ``This deadline is not moving. We simply have too big a task,'' he said.
The applications are being sent to every Kentucky farm operator identified through USDA records.
The state will notify every quota owner who is not a farm operator that the application is being mailed to the person who operates the farm.
``Everyone involved in tobacco production on that farm who shares in the risk of production must sign that single application,'' the governor said.
That includes quota owners, those who control the land where the burley is planted, and those who employ the labor to produce the crop. It does not include workers paid by the hour.
An estate may apply for the money if the farmer has died, Hack said. Also eligible are out-of-state burley producers who raised tobacco in Kentucky.
Money in the trust will be split equally among those who employed the labor, those who owned the quota, and those who controlled the land. Growers/tenants and growing farms will be compensated in payment pounds -- the average of the 1998 effective quota and marketings. Quota owners will be compensated on their 1998 basic quota.
The exact payment schedule will not be known until Nov. 15.
Arbitration will be available for payment disputes.
If all goes as expected, the first checks to Kentucky burley growers should be in the mail by year's end.