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News - KFB President Addresses Tobacco Task Force

  • September 30, 2010

Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) President Mark Haney addressed the state legislature’s Tobacco Task Force in September to provide information on new regulatory issues that could impact growers. Foremost is a proposal from the World Health Organization (WHO) that has the potential to eliminate the use of burley tobacco in American blend cigarettes.

Haney told the panel the WHO proposal presents “a real threat” to burley production in Kentucky. The proposal would ban all flavoring substances and processing aids necessary for blending burley into a cigarette.

“If these guidelines are adopted,” Haney said, “it will impact opportunities Kentucky growers currently have to raise and sell burley tobacco. Kentucky’s burley production has eroded from a nearly $1 billion crop some 15 years ago, to around a $300 million crop now. We feel the action WHO plans to take will impose restrictions discriminating one type of tobacco product over another without showing any scientific benefit. We feel this is unfair and unwarranted.”

The Tobacco Task Force Chairman is State Representative Wilson Stone, a former president of Allen County Farm Bureau. The panel expressed its support for KFB’s position by adopting a resolution calling for WHO “to revise its proposed list of banned tobacco ingredients.” Stone told the committee of House and Senate members that the issue is “very threatening” to burley growers.

Concurring was University of Kentucky Tobacco Economist Dr. Will Snell, who has closely followed the industry for over 20 years. During his testimony to the committee, Dr. Snell said, “We’ve been through a lot of battles and challenges. At this time, we are facing the greatest threat to our industry.”

The so-called “draft ingredient guidelines” will be under consideration at a WHO conference in November in Uruguay. KFB has voiced its concern to Kentucky’s Congressional delegation, the USDA, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office and the WHO. The tobacco task force resolution was forwarded to representatives of WHO countries that are active with the tobacco proposal.

The International Tobacco Growers Association is vehemently opposing the proposal. It has launched a global petition drive calling for governments to reject it.

Haney said it is “critical” to gain the support of several other powerful nations. He also presented the committee with updates on the Food and Drug Administration’s tobacco oversight activities and details on how a new law in Canada is expected to impact the U.S. tobacco industry.

Several members of the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board attended the tobacco meeting at the University of Kentucky’s Arboretum before the board’s meeting elsewhere on campus. The events were held in conjunction with Ag Alumni Week at UK, of which KFB is a major sponsor.

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