Tobacco growers need protection under trade deal

As a lifetime tobacco farmer who has enjoyed its economic benefits and, more importantly, a person who has acquired in-depth knowledge of the critical value we provide for U.S. agricultural exports around the world and what that means for our state, I feel "Shielding tobacco a deadly pact" is misleading to your readers.

Burley growers are heavily dependent on leaf exports, as the editorial points out.

The potential carve-out language will damage the ability of our burley purchasers to protect their market share in affected countries. The tobacco product manufacturers have invested heavily in creating trademark brands that use our burley. They deserve every legal right to protect the identity of those brands to remain viable and continue purchasing our burley leaf. Our tobacco growers' sales depend on the good fortune of our purchasers.

We agree there is no effort at present to restrict trade in leaf. What is evident is that some public-health policies in other countries are targeted at "American blend" cigarettes with little sound science to support those policies.

Most countries involved in Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are American blend markets.

Any legal industry depends on the legal protections afforded by World Trade Organization pacts.

Our tobacco manufacturers conduct legal trade and have the support of nearly all business organizations, including the United States Chamber of Commerce, in this unprecedented attempt to thwart our legal protections.

Indeed, the disguised attempts in the name of social health reforms will create a precedent to eliminate trade in several other of our agricultural commodities —all in the name of improving public health.

The fact is that governments can already protect public health without robbing our industry of fair and equal legal treatment.

Governments have made massive efforts to continue educating all persons of the risks of tobacco consumption.

Any consumer who has decided to enjoy tobacco products is doing so knowing all the risks. I agree we tobacco farmers operate in a world market with economic risks.

That does not mean that we should accept having the playing field tilted against us.

It's important to understand that the $300 million of annual Kentucky leaf exports probably has a common economic multiplier of seven-fold, thus providing over $1 billion of economic activity in Kentucky enjoyed by all segments of agriculture and its suppliers.

I applaud Sen. Mitch McConnell in his efforts to protect free trade and Kentucky agriculture. Indeed that is only one of his broad duties as our recently re-elected senator.

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