Senate Seeks To Aid Tobacco Growers
They grow a crop the government doesn't want people to buy, yet the Senate wants to give tobacco farmers $328 million to stay in business.
The farmers say they need the cash that's tucked in a $7.4 billion package of farm aid to compensate for the money they're losing from declining cigarette sales and lagging exports.
``Tobacco farmers have their backs against the wall in terms of this agricultural crisis as much as any other farmers,'' said Larry Wooten, a North Carolina grower.
But critics say tobacco isn't just any crop.
``This was a step backwards,'' said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. ``It certainly is inconsistent for us to be subsidizing tobacco while we tell people how dangerous it is.''
Republican leaders put the money in the farm assistance package at the request of senators from tobacco growing states. Most of the money in the legislation, about $6 billion, would go to grain and soybean growers.
The drought that has parched much of the East Coast this summer has largely spared tobacco crops. But the government, which stabilizes tobacco prices by regulating production, cut back sharply on how much tobacco farmers could grow this year because of declining domestic and foreign markets.