Tobacco farmers notched a victory Thursday when the U.S. Senate fended off efforts to eliminate the federal insurance program for their embattled crop.
Tobacco farmer organizations had vigorously objected to the proposal, saying elimination of the program would effectively spell the end of U.S. tobacco production.
Tobacco Associates of Raleigh, North Carolina, said discontinuation of the subsidy would have rendered any private multi-peril crop insurance unaffordable. And, without insurance, lending institutions would have become reluctant to provide loans to tobacco farmers. No crop under cultivation in the southeastern United States is as susceptible to wind as tobacco in the peak harvest months of July through October.
In 2012, the farm value of North Carolina leaf tobacco was nearly $770 million.
Tobacco growers outside of North Carolina were relieved, as well.
“It was a significant policy win for Kentucky farmers amid a very anti-tobacco Congress,” University of Kentucky agricultural economist Will Snell said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the amendment’s defeat a “big victory” for the state’s tobacco growers. McConnell personally lobbied a number of his colleagues in leading the fight against the amendment, which he denounced as “another assault by Washington to go after” jobs in Kentucky.
For years, tobacco farmers have been beleaguered by smoking bans and high excise taxes as U.S. cigarette consumption declines.