Southern tobacco farmers fear they may lose much of its export business, if health advocates win the battle to cut tobacco is a major trade agreement that negotiations with eight countries in Asia Pacific.
The American Medical Association and other organizations in the health claim that the Obama administration has put a public health priority to commercial interests.
But the best part of their culture is being sold abroad, tobacco growers in North Carolina, Kentucky and across the South East felt that the pressure to eliminate their ability to earn a living, for goods that are sold legally in the United States and around the world.
U.S. President Barack Obama hopes that the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement will double exports in the end. The United States is doing more than $ 200 billion in trade with these countries: Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The aim is to increase trade by eliminating taxes and tariffs on exports and imports between the countries. Farmers fear they will be excluded from the special offer, making it more difficult for them to compete with developing countries, which already sell tobacco cheaper.
The negotiations are going to resume on Thursday in Australia. Last week, Governor Steve Beshear joined by U.S. trade representatives and ambassadors of several partners in the reception of Washington, which contributed to a global agreement.
In the last decade, Americans have reduced their smoking by more than one hundred billion cigarettes a year. Internal reduction of smokers forced manufacturers such as John Ashe to seek new markets abroad.
Ninety percent of the tobacco growing exports Ash. He is working on a farm in Reidsville, NC, just north of Greensboro, 14 cows, 100 acres of soybeans and wheat, and 84 acres of tobacco products. It is tobacco that keeps him afloat, he said.
“Tobacco generates more revenue,” said Ash, who is 44. “I can not do this on 100 acres of wheat. I just could not do it on 100 acres of soybeans. Equipment that I use for my tobacco farms, some of the things that I can use for the cultivation of wheat and used to grow soybeans use to grow hay for the cows. I can not justify the purchase of equipment from my bean and wheat crop in my area of the state. ”
This is not only the cultivation of tobacco, which would be affected be excluded from the transaction. Eric Peterson, executive vice president of the North Carolina Agribusiness Council, said tobacco was the major economic engine in the $ 70 billion agricultural state.
“There are fertilizers, pesticides,” she said. “There is a dealership that sells truck farmer …. Any of the employees they hire on a farm wages, the secretary. All these people will be affected.”
In response to the concerns of producers, more than 50 U.S. senators and representatives – Republicans and Democrats – from tobacco growing states of Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee have signed a letter warning last fall, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk dangerous consequences of cutting tobacco from the agreement and the Pacific.
“At a time when Kentucky unemployment rate hovers around 9.5 percent, we urge you to consider the serious impact of tobacco than have the state and national economy,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Wrote in a letter to Kirk signed by all Delegation of Kentucky.
More than 80 percent of tobacco, which has grown in Kentucky is sold outside the United States. USDA believes that Kentucky exported nearly $ 238 million of tobacco in 2010.
That same year, North Carolina exported $ 600 million worth. More than a third of the 662,400 workers of the tobacco in the country to work in North Carolina, according to state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Despite its value to the economy, tobacco is one of the leading preventable causes of death worldwide. Each year, tobacco kills about 6 million people, according to the World Health Organization in Geneva. Nearly 80 percent of the more than 1 billion smokers worldwide live in low-and middle-income countries, international health organizations said.
The United States and all eight of the Trans-Pacific Partnership recognize the dangers of tobacco use. Representatives from each country signed the treaty, WHO Public Health, known as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which recognizes the role that the “price and tax measures,” such as tariffs, there is a reduction in tobacco consumption.
Health groups say that only farmers in front of a sympathetic well-funded campaign are due to the giant multinationals of tobacco. Philip Morris International was one of several corporate sponsors Trade reception last Friday. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids criticized tobacco giant for trying to influence the leaders of the trade.
Although the political influence of the tobacco lobby has decreased with the change of habits of Americans from smoking, the industry continues to spend millions in Washington. He contributed $ 4.9 million of federal political campaigns in the past three years, according to the Center for Responsive politics in Washington that tracks campaign spending.
Including tobacco in the agreement would weaken the efforts of the Pacific public health by reducing tariffs on tobacco products, said Jonathan Klein, the deputy executive director of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Colin McCluney, education and advocacy research fellow of the American Medical Student Association, said public health interests must be put to economic interests.
“We want to make sure that countries are able to carry out public health measures that allow them to curb tobacco use,” he said.
Some of the countries participating in the negotiations already have deals. There are no tariffs on U.S. exports of tobacco in Australia, for example, but New Zealand introduced a 5 percent tariff and Vietnam imposes a 30 percent tariff on imports of American tobacco, according to the North Carolina Agribusiness Council.
Although it exports more tobacco than it imports, the U.S. imposes a 40 percent tax on the small amount of tobacco that is imported from Vietnam.
Farmers are hoping to become part of the deal, which eliminates all of these tariffs.
Trade Ambassador Kirk, whose office represents the United States at the talks, described the problem as a “raging debate”.
Asked about the dispute in Richmond, Va., during a business roundtable this month, Kirk said the decision has to be done.
“There are people who are fanatically stubborn on both sides,” he said, according to the video event placed the city of Richmond. “Our job is to following the laws of the United States. Strike this balance. But at the same time we ever have to make a decision.”
The eight countries involved in trade agreements to acquire a small number of Pacific Tobacco United States compared to the amounts purchased in Japan and China. But whether Snell, agriculture economist at the University of Kentucky, said the producers are afraid of the consequences that the negotiations may have on future deals.
Ash said that he understands the problems of health, but he noted that tobacco is still sold legally in the United States and abroad. Therefore, he said, it should be treated as any other export.
“I just wanted to be fair, that’s all,” he said. “We can not exclude the possibility that a person makes, in my opinion. And in our situation now, we have to send everything to anywhere in the world…. It’s harder than it was 10 years ago.”