Tobacco farmer payments not subjected to sequestration

Posted by Renee Schoof on January 7, 2014 

Reviving the Chant

A buyer from Baylee Tobacco inspects a bale as it's being auctioned off Wednesday Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/The Wilson Times, Brad Coville)

BRAD COVILLE — AP

Good news this week for tobacco farmers and others involved in the Tobacco Transition Payment Program (TTPP). The Obama administration isn’t taking a cut of the final year’s payment after all.

Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., announced Monday night that the Obama administration decided not to subject the final annual payment to tobacco farmers to sequestration as it had planned to do.

North Carolina is the top tobacco-producing state.

In November, the administration announced that the Tobacco Transition Payment Program (TTPP), the annual payments to farmers allocated in the 2004 Tobacco Buyout, would be subject to the across-the-board cuts in 2014. McIntyre and most of North Carolina’s congressional delegation wrote to the Department of Agriculture protesting the cuts.

“This is a great victory for our tobacco farmers, their families, and our agricultural communities! The federal government must keep the commitment it made to our farmers in the Tobacco Buyout 10 years ago. I am pleased that the Administration has responded to our requests to ensure that farmers in Eastern North Carolina and across the country receive the funds they were promised,” McIntyre said in a statement.

McIntyre is the No. 2-ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. He also was a co-author of the 2004 tobacco buyout legislation. He said he got the word that the payments would be kept whole in a call with Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden.

Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican who represents North Carolina’s 8th District and also serves on the Agriculture Committee, helped spearhead the letter to Vilsack along with McIntyre.

“I am pleased to see the USDA and OMB come to their senses and agree with Congress that tobacco growers are entitled to the full payments that they planned for and were promised to them,” Hudson said. He added that he was “glad that we were able to unite in a bipartisan fashion to ensure this fair outcome.”

Sen. Kay Hagan also had written to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and White House Office of Management and Budget director Sylvia Burwell urging them to prevent cuts to the tobacco program.

“I am so pleased that after hearing from me and my colleagues about the damage subjecting these payments to sequestration would do, USDA and OMB have agreed to prevent reductions to TTPP payments for small tobacco farmers in North Carolina and across the country that depend on these payments to provide for their families and make ends meet,” Hagan said in a statement Tuesday. “Because these funds come from fees paid by the tobacco industry, not general taxpayer funds, they should not be subject to sequestration.”

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