Federal subsidies to tobacco farmers in Kentucky and elsewhere will continue next year, even though a majority of U.S. Senators believe they should not. The Senate voted Thursday 52-44 to cut off the payments, but the measure required 60 votes for passage.
California Senator. Diane Feinstein led the effort to end taxpayer subsidies, suggesting that tobacco farmers, particularly in Kentucky, have done quite well over the past decade.
"A 2012 University of Illinois study found that productivity on Kentucky tobacco farms increased by 44% in the last ten years," asserted Feinstein. "At the same time, tobacco farmers are seeing some of their best pay days since the 2004 buyout began."
Feinstein argued the payments need to stop because tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the nation. Other critics claim the payments are too generous.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called the measure’s defeat a big victory for tobacco growers. The commonwealth is the nation’s top burley tobacco producer.
Kevin's interview with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner and Monroe County native James Comer
Kentucky's agriculture commissioner says last week's setback shouldn't cause hemp supporters to give up hopes of getting the crop legalized. James Comer told WKU Public Radio he's not surprised language legalizing industrial hemp failed to get added to the first drafts of farm bills in the U.S. House and Senate.
Last week, a group of Kentucky U.S. Senators and House members tried--and failed--to get that language included in the legislation.
Comer says the federal farm bill has a long way to go before it gets passed, and a lot of things will be added and taken out in the next few months.
"And I learned during this last session in Kentucky, when I read in the papers that (House Speaker) Greg Stumbo would say my bill was dead, that it's not over until the very last day, so we're still holding out hope on it," said Comer, a farmer from Monroe County.