Farm Official Backs Tobacco Program
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The federal tobacco program, a Depression-era creation that still sustains farmers, should be preserved but adapted to reflect sweeping changes, the head of Kentucky's largest farm group says.
``I strongly believe that very few growers would benefit from the program's demise, while the overwhelming majority would suffer,'' Kentucky Farm Bureau President Sam Moore said.
Moore, a Kentucky farmer, said the tobacco industry is in the midst of change. Nowhere is that more evident than in tobacco marketing.
Philip Morris U.S.A., the nation's largest tobacco manufacturer, is buying burley tobacco directly from Kentucky growers. The contract purchases circumvent auction markets where tobacco has traditionally been sold. Philip Morris plans to expand contract buying next year.
The agreements between Philip Morris and growers have alarmed some in the tobacco belt, who worry it jeopardizes the federal tobacco program, which guarantees price and markets for farmers' leaf.
Moore said preserving the tobacco program remains a top priority for the state Farm Bureau's more than 409,000 members. Kentucky is the nation's leading burley tobacco producer.
``We must find a way to ensure that the program survives but adapts to fit the contracting system, because it appears that contracting is here to stay,'' Moore said.
Farm Bureau policy doesn't oppose contracting, provided it doesn't stray from the federal price-support program. Moore said contracting has proved profitable for participating farmers.
Moore said the tobacco industry must make difficult decisions soon before the ``program collapses under its own weight.'' He predicted that a proposal drafted by state farm bureaus and others will be forthcoming, calling for changes in the quota and price-support system.