Posted on July 30, 2003
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Bill Frist (R-TN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today announced they have cosponsored the "Tobacco Market Transition Act of 2003." This bill would buy out federal tobacco quotas and provide $13 billion over six years to tobacco farmers and their communities in Tennessee and other tobacco growing states. "What I continue to hear from Tennessee tobacco farmers, including just this past weekend, is that the quota system is simply not working," said Frist. "Farmers are spending more and more to lease quota to grow tobacco, which is unfairly reducing their incomes and hurting entire communities. This compromise legislation is a fair way to 'buy-out' the quota system and to give farmers more freedom to farm their crops. This bill will help tobacco farmers across the state and the entire tobacco-growing region." "I have been working with Senator Frist and other tobacco state senators to work out a fair solution to this problem," Alexander said. "I have also heard from Tennessee tobacco farmers that the current quota system is making life harder for them and decreasing their farm incomes. Communities that have depended on tobacco revenues are struggling. This bill would make American tobacco more competitive with foreign producers, and it would also lessen the federal government's interference in farming." Funding for the legislation would be raised by assessments on cigarettes, smokeless, and other tobacco products. The bill establishes a tobacco quality board and separate production board for each kind of tobacco to assist the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in administering the programs and other necessary input for each kind of tobacco. The bill's original sponsor is Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).