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Tobacco Growers Say They Need Buyout

February 11, 2003

TIFTON, Ga. (AP) _ Many Georgia farmers want to break their dependence on tobacco, but say they need the government to buy out their quotas.

Flue-cured tobacco has been a reliable, moneymaking crop since the 1930s, but in the last five years their quotas have been cut by nearly 50 percent as people smoked less and tobacco companies switched to cheaper imported tobacco. A quota is the amount of tobacco the government allows each farmer to grow for a guaranteed price.

Some say U.S. tobacco accounts for only 5 percent of the leaf used around the world because of the high prices maintained by the quota system.

The farmers want the government to buy out their quotas and help them find alternate crops or continue growing tobacco under another system that allows them to compete globally.

About 350 growers recently filled an auditorium at the University of Georgia’s Rural Development Center, about 200 miles south of Atlanta, to learn about two buyout proposals pending in the Senate that would pay them $8 per pound for their quota and $2 to $4 per pound to help them make the transition.

They told six congressional aides that a buyout is the only way they can survive.

The aides cautioned that issues including troubles with Iraq and North Korea may keep lawmakers busy in next few months.

``Don’t think this is going to be taken care of in the next two or three weeks,″ said Jody Redding, a member of Georgia Democrat Sen. Zell Miller’s staff. ``It’s going to be a long haul.″

The estimated cost of a buyout would be $15 billion to $16 billion, paid for from fees charged to tobacco companies.


On the Net:

Flue-Cured Tobacco Cooperative Stabilization Corp.: http://www.ustobaccofarmer.com/default.html


TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ University of Arizona researchers have started a four-year project to strengthen agriculture programs in Jordan.

Researchers will examine the best possible uses of wastewater in Jordan, and wastewater treatment plants will be constructed in the Middle Eastern nation, said Kennith Foster, director of arid land studies in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Jordan is suffering from a drought, so using reclaimed water for agriculture would save precious fresh water.

``By collecting water from urban sources, you have a new supply of water for new uses,″ Foster said.

Funding for the project, $1 million for the first year, comes from the United States Agency for International Development.

``Times in the Middle East are pretty tough right now, so this is one of the mechanisms by which we can collaborate and work together,″ Foster said.

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