Kentucky's tobacco industry has undergone major changes in the past few decades from the way it's grown and harvested, to the way it's sold and marketed. WKU folklore professor Dr. Ann Ferrell spent the past eight years researching what the changes have meant to tobacco families and what the future holds in her new book "Burley: Kentucky Tobacco in a New Century".
Kentucky tobacco farmers stand to lose an estimated $12 million because of federal budget cuts related to the sequester. Those cuts are scheduled to hit the next round of price support payments sent to about 100,000 Kentucky tobacco farmers and quota holders.
Kentucky Farm Bureau President Mark Haney told WKU Public Radio the payments should be exempt from the federal spending cuts.
"This shouldn't even be considered for sequestration because it's actually a contract that was signed between the tobacco producers and the tobacco manufacturers. Really, the federal government was just holding the money and making the program work."
Haney says members of Kentucky's congressional delegation and farm lobby are teaming up with their counterparts in other states as the next tobacco quota payment nears.
The year 2014 may be one of uncertainty for Kentucky’s farmers.
The federal Tobacco Transition Payment Program will end in January. For 10 years, the program has given farmers across the nation money to diversify their crops away from tobacco. Earlier this year, a federal court found that Kentucky's management of Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement funds was “non-diligent.” As a penalty a percentage of the payment will be withheld.
Roger Thomas is executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy. He told lawmakers Wednesday the reduction could affect programs such as Kentucky Proud and state-supported farmer's markets.
“I’m hopeful, I’m optimistic that the programs that I have mentioned here today, the good programs that have such a tremendous impact on not just agriculture, but Kentucky as a whole, that these programs will be able to continue in the future as they had in the past.”
Thomas said he would have a clearer picture of the effect that reductions in federal funding will have by March next year.
The latest federal data shows the nation's top tobacco companies have reduced spending on advertising and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products in recent years. Figures from the Federal Trade Commission show cigarette marketing declined more than five percent to $8.05 billion from 2009 to 2010, the latest year for which figures are available.
Although many communities in the U.S. have taken steps to curb smoking, Kentucky tobacco growers continue to benefit from export sales. However, the government in New Zealand today is taking some very strong steps to discourage tobacco use.
Tobacco companies will be required to report the levels of dangerous chemicals found in chew, cigarettes, and other products under the latest rules designed to tighten regulation of the tobacco industry. The Associated Press reports that preliminary guidance issued by the Food and Drug Administration marks the first time tobacco firms will be required to report quantities of 20 chemicals associated with lung disease, cancer, and other health problems.
Brad Rodu says it's time for the public health community to re-think how it looks at the smoking debate in this country. Rodu is head of the Tobacco Harm Reduction effort at the University of Louisville's James Graham Brown Cancer Center. He says for too long the smoking issue has come down to an all-or-nothing wager: smokers are told they either have to give up cigarettes, or keep smoking and die.