Members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to not lower payments to tobacco farmers next year as part of the expected federal budget cuts known as sequestration.
The payments would be the last in a 10-year agreement in which the USDA agreed to buy out tobacco farmers as they transition from previous market regulations, and were expected to be about $390 million in this state in January, according to the North Carolina Farm Bureau. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget included the agreement, known as the Tobacco Transition Payment Program, under sequestration cuts, lowering the payment by 7.5 percent, the bureau said.
The payment program represents $10.1 billion to tobacco farmers across the country, mostly in North Carolina, since it was signed 2004. The USDA collects fees from tobacco manufacturers and importers and transfers them to growers under the agreement.
In a letter addressed to the Office of Management and Budget, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) said the decision appears to be "totally unwarranted." Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) wrote in a similar letter that she would be “deeply troubled” if the Tobacco Transition Payment Program funds are subject to sequestration because the funds don’t include taxpayer money. Other North Carolina congressmen to petition include Mike McIntyre (D-Lumberton), Richard Hudson (D-Concord).