Tobacco States Angered by Bush’s Opposition to Buyout

Tobacco growers and Republican lawmakers from tobacco states are angry about President Bush’s opposition to a tobacco buyout, the Washington Post reported May 16.

Tobacco farmers and lawmakers in tobacco states have been pleading for a buyout of the government-controlled quota system, because changes in the market and growing competition from foreign-grown tobacco has reduced U.S. farmers’ quotas and forced many out of business.

Responding to a question about tobacco and regulation during a recent visit to Ohio, however, Bush said, “They’ve got the quota system in place — the allotment system — and I don’t think that needs to be changed.”

Two bills are currently under consideration in Congress: one would allow for a tobacco buyout, while the other combines the buyout with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over tobacco products.

“I’ve heard from any number of good Republicans who said they’ll either stay home or vote Democrat in the fall if the White House doesn’t change its position,” said Rep. Virgil Goode Jr. (R-Va.). “It’s critical for the White House to move fast.”

Rep. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said President Bush “is wrong” in saying a buyout isn’t needed. “Just like the tobacco growers in North Carolina, I’m mad about what the president said,” Burr said. “I remain hopeful that, in that statement, we didn’t hear any threat that a buyout bill would not be considered by this White House.”

Burr, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) and Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) are planning to speak with President Bush on the issue.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has come out in support of a tobacco buyout, saying the growers are in dire need of the assistance. Kerry supports that buyout bill with FDA regulation.