Tobacco Producers Across the Region Will Face Federal Cuts - WSET.com - ABC13

Tobacco Producers Across the Region Will Face Federal Cuts

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Pittsylvania Co., VA - Thanks to sequestration, many tobacco growers across the country will be missing out on big bucks at the beginning of the year.

The money in the Tobacco Transition Payment Program - better known as the tobacco buyout - is from the tobacco industry - paid to local growers.

Now, the program's funds are being cut.

Donnie Moore is just one of many former quota holders in Pittsylvania County that won't see as much money in his annual check from the tobacco fund.

"It's the principle of the thing that bothers me, a lot more than just the money, " Moore said.

Quotas that determined the number of acres and pounds of tobacco each grower could produce were eliminated in 2003.

The tobacco fund was formed as a ten year payback to those producers across the country, but the final payment in January will see a 7.2% cut due to federal sequestration.

That will be about 3 million dollars in Virginia alone. Moore says the money is not the government's to take.

"It's the fact that they would take private money and put it back into the general treasury to balance the budget. It's stealing, " Moore said. 

Legislators from across the tobacco region did some digging and found a law saying the government could indeed use the money, but they are supposed to give it back.

"Hopefully, even if the 7.2 percent is sequestered, it will be dispersed back out to the individual quota holder in a 12 month period, " said Pittsylvania County Farm Bureau President Jay Calhoun. 

The producers - including some who depend on that money being part of their budget -  hope policymakers will find a solution before January.

They also say they don't want to see this happen to any other group.

"This was a private fund, so it could be somebody else's trust fund at some point," Calhoun said.

In a statement Congressman Robert Hurt said:

"It is clear that the Tobacco Transition Payment Program should not be subject to sequester cuts for Fiscal Year 2014 payment. This program is funded entirely by private dollars, and its sole purpose is to help farmers during a difficult transition period at no expense to the taxpayer. On November 22nd, I led a bipartisan group of my colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressing our concerns with cuts to the final payment of this program. We have called upon Secretary Vilsack to take the necessary steps to ensure that this program is carried out as written and make payment in full for the final installment of this program."    
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