Friday, January 19, 2001

Three-year average to decide farm payments

Tobacco settlement formula hard-won

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — A three-year average of quota and sales will be used to determine the next round of payments to burley farmers and growers from a national settlement with cigarette manufacturers.

        The decision Thursday by the Tobacco Settlement Trust Corp. was deeply divided and provided little indication of how future payments may be structured.

        Using the average of three years was a compromise after a proposal to base payments on 2000 production statistics was defeated on a 7-5 vote. Previous payments had been based on a single year's production. The final vote was 8-4.

        Gov. Paul Patton, who is chairman of the board but did not attend Thursday's meeting, put forth a proposal that would eliminate future payments to people who got out of the business of growing tobacco, even for a year.

        John-Mark Hack, Mr. Patton's agriculture adviser and president of the government corporation, said the fund was created to compensate people in the tobacco growing sector who suffered financially from the manufacturers' decision to reach a $246 billion settlement with states on the health-related costs of smoking.

        “This fund was not created as an incentive fund for people to get into the business,” Mr. Hack said.

        But other board members, all gubernatorial appointees, had a different view of the payments and the future of the tobacco growing industry.

        “I want my son to get into it and make a better living than I do,” said Gary Cecil of Owensboro.

        “We're going to be an old bunch of tobacco hangers in 10 years,” added Wilson Stone of Scottsville.


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