Tobacco Funds to Help Farmers Grow With Times
The millions of dollars expected to pour into Southern Maryland from the tobacco litigation settlement would be used to preserve agricultural land and help tobacco farmers shift to other crops, according to a plan drafted by political leaders and members
No program to compensate farmers for the tobacco they continue to produce is envisioned under the plan, though many tobacco farmers have advocated such a subsidy.
Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) has agreed that Southern Maryland, home to most of the state's tobacco farmers, should receive 5 percent of the $4.6 billion the state expects to receive over 25 years under terms of the settlement with tobacco companies. That will work out to $2.5 million in fiscal 2000, and $9 million to $12 million for each of the following 25 years, all channeled through the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland.
The Tri-County Council, a regional planning agency, is now helping to draft an executive order to create a semi-independent commission that would oversee a host of endeavors, including an agricultural land preservation effort, genetic research, and transition and buyout programs.
The ultimate goal of the new commission would be to keep land in agricultural uses while phasing out tobacco production and finding alternative crops for the approximately 700 tobacco growers remaining in the state.