Tobacco Farmer Assistance
CRS Report for Congress
Tobacco Farmer Assistance
Agriculture Policy Specialist
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Efforts to reduce tobacco consumption in the United States, stimulated by the 1998
Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), contributed to a sharp decline in the demand for
U.S.-grown tobacco. The other major contributor to the long term decline in domestic
as well as foreign demand was the federal price support program, which limited supply
and raised the price of U.S. tobacco above competitive market levels. Consequently,
foreign-grown tobacco displaced U.S. tobacco in both domestic and world markets.
Because of the drop in demand, farmers asked for and received compensation and
assistance from cigarette manufacturers and the federal government. Manufacturers, in
conjunction with the MSA, pledged $5.15 billion in payments to farmers to be
distributed over 12 years. Also, Congress approved $328 million in tobacco loss
payments to farmers for FY2000, $340 million for FY2001, another $129 million for
FY2001, and $55 million for FY2003. In addition, losses on 1999 crop price support
loan stocks, amounting to $625 million, were shifted to taxpayers. Finally, in 2004,
legislation was adopted terminating the tobacco support program, but with compensation
to quota owners and active producers of $9.6 billion (paid by manufacturers).
This report will not be updated.
The tobacco price guarantee provided by the federal support program was supposed
to support and stabilize the income of growers. However, farmers saw an especially sharp
drop in sales volume after 1997. In response, production was reduced 51% by 2004. Like
other farmers suffering economic hardship, tobacco growers asked for and received
U.S. Tobacco Production and Markets
Based on the 2002 Census of Agriculture, about 57 thousand farms in the United
States produce tobacco. They primarily are located in Kentucky, North Carolina, and
neighboring states. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, crop year
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
farm), for a yield of 2,161 pounds per acre. The average price is estimated at about $1.98
per pound, for a total crop value of about $1.685 billion.1
U.S. Leaf Domestic UseU.S. Leaf Exports
The utilization of U.S. tobacco leaf by domestic cigarette manufacturers and export
sales long have been declining. Economists argue that the decline in sales and the loss
of market share is due to the high price and tight supply of U.S. tobacco caused by the
federal price support program. Other countries increased tobacco production and sales
to traditional U.S. markets, including to U.S. manufacturers. In 2004, U.S.-manufactured
cigarettes contained about 61% of the cheaper imported tobacco. Additionally, U.S. leaf
exports have been on a declining trend for at least the past 20 years (down to about 7.6%
of world exports). The disadvantage of U.S. tobacco is illustrated by its average price
during 2004 of $2.89 per pound (declared weight) leaving U.S. ports compared to $1.26
for foreign tobacco entering those same ports.2 The higher quality of U.S. tobacco helped
offset some of its price disadvantage, but not enough to prevent the loss of market share.
Adding to the difficulties of tobacco farmers was the declining per capita
consumption of cigarettes for at least the past 30 years. It is anticipated U.S. cigarette
consumption will continue to decline in future years if the anti-smoking elements of the
Tobacco Price Support
From the 1930s through 2004, tobacco farmers benefitted from a federal price
support and stabilization program (see CRS Report 95-129, Tobacco Price Support: An
Overview of the Program). Federal law specified a guaranteed minimum price for leaf
tobacco. The price guarantee was achieved by controlling supply. Each tobacco farm was
assigned a marketing quota that balanced national production with domestic and export
demand. Any tobacco that did not bring at least the guaranteed price was purchased by
a “price stabilization cooperative” with money borrowed from the USDA’s Commodity
1 Data on tobacco economics are published by the Economic Research Service in Tobacco
Situation and Outlook Reports available at the Tobacco Briefing Room.
2 Calculated from export and import value data in USDA, Foreign Agriculture Service, Tobacco:
World Markets and Trade, January 2004.
Credit Corporation (CCC).3 The 2004 crop year support price for flue-cured tobacco was
$1.690 per pound, and for burley it was $1.873.
By law, the tobacco loan operations of the CCC were to function at no net cost to
taxpayers. Price stabilization cooperatives that borrowed money from CCC earned
revenue from the sale of tobacco acquired from farmers and this money was used to make
repayments with interest. If the revenue from tobacco sales was insufficient to cover the
obligations to CCC, funds were withdrawn from a no-net-cost assessment pool. This pool
of money was generated from an assessment on every pound of leaf tobacco marketed.
The assessment on 2004-crop flue-cured was 10¢ per pound, and on burley it was 2¢.
Federal Purchase and Disposal of Surplus Tobacco
Additional assistance for burley, flue-cured, and cigar binder tobacco producers was
included in the FY2001 agriculture appropriations law (P.L. 106-387, Sec. 844, as
amended). Tobacco stabilization cooperatives were authorized to transfer ownership of
net-cost program, and without the supplies being included in future quota calculations.
This meant tobacco marketing quotas would be larger in subsequent years than without
the legislative action.
The law authorizing the CCC acquisition prohibited the sale of this tobacco for
domestic use. The tobacco was offered for export sale at what CCC determined to be its
fair market value, but no buyers responded.4 This left the CCC with little choice but to
bury the tobacco in landfills, which it completed in December 2003. The CCC acquired
and destroyed 221.4 million pounds of tobacco. Expenditures for this tobacco stocks
disposal program (including acquisition costs, interest on funds borrowed from the U.S.
Treasury, storage, and disposal) amounted to about $625 million.
The CCC takeover of 1999 loan stocks paralleled action taken in 1986 when 1983-
crop burley loan stocks were acquired and disposed of without being charged against the
no-net-cost program. On that occasion, the cost to CCC was about $376 million. So,
while the tobacco program lived up to its mandate of no net cost to taxpayers, it was
because Congress acted to prevent sizeable downward quota adjustments and shifted the
financial burden of surplus stocks onto taxpayers instead of producers.
Federal Compensation for Decreased Tobacco Marketing Quotas
Tobacco marketing quotas declined as domestic and export demand dropped. In
1999 and 2000, the quota reductions were especially large and Congress approved
additional federal assistance. Direct payments amounted to about $1 for each pound of
quota loss. The FY2000 appropriation for USDA (P.L. 106-78, Sec. 803(c)) provided
3 The CCC is a financial institution in the USDA that is authorized to borrow money from the
U.S. Treasury to carry out commodity support and other farm assistance programs.
4 The option of reducing the CCC list price was rejected for at least two reasons. First, the law
also prohibited the Foreign Agricultural Service from promoting the sale or export of tobacco in
overseas markets. Second, selling tobacco at reduced prices in export markets that is prohibited
in domestic markets raises questions of legality under international trade rules.
another $328 million in direct “quota loss payments.” The law directed that the funds be
distributed in proportion to each farm’s reduction in marketing quota from 1998 to 1999.
The national burley quota had decreased 29% and the flue-cured quota had decreased
Again, in the Agriculture Risk Protection Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-224, Section 204
(b)), Congress instructed that $340 million be distributed in FY2001 to tobacco farmers.
The state-by-state distribution of this money was based largely on quota decreases from
crop year 1999 to 2000. The national burley quota had decreased 45% and the flue-cured
quota had decreased 19%.
As directed by P.L. 107-25, another $129 million was distributed among tobacco
farmers (exactly as done under P.L. 106-224) before October 2001. The addition of this
money meant that the decline in flue-cured and burley quotas from 1997 to 2001 was
compensated at the rate of $1 per pound.
The consolidated appropriations act for FY2003 (P.L. 108-7) included a provision
in the emergency agricultural assistance portion of the law (Division N, Title II, Sec. 205)
directing the payment of 5.55¢ per pound of 2002 basic quota. These payments were
expected to total about $55 million.
Table 1. Distribution of “Tobacco Quota Payments,” by State
(Rounded to nearest $000)
P.L. P.L. P.L. P.L. P.L. P.L. P.L. P.L.
St a t e 106-78 106-224 107-25 108-7 State 106-78 106-224 107-25 108-7
NC $99,721 $100,000 $37,941 23,300 MO $1,719 $2,000 $759 $200
T N $33,794 $35,000 $13,279 4,100 WV $1,155 $1,300 $493 $100
To tal $328,000 $340,000 $129,000 $55,000
Phase II, National Tobacco Grower Settlement Trust
The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between cigarette manufacturers and states’
attorneys general obligated the manufactures to pay states approximately $205 billion over
tobacco advertising. An explicit goal was to reduce cigarette consumption. However, any
reduction in cigarette consumption indirectly would decrease use of U.S.-grown leaf
tobacco, with associated adverse impacts on the financial condition of farmers and their
rural communities. Some states designated a portion of their settlement funds for farm
and rural assistance.
As an aside and separate from the MSA, manufacturers committed a further $5.15
billion for distribution over 12 years to tobacco farmers under the National Tobacco
Grower Settlement Trust agreement (also known as the Phase II settlement). The
individual states were responsible for designing the allocation among tobacco farm
operators and absentee quota owners. A provision of the agreement provided an offset
to Phase II for any future federal charges against manufacturers to help tobacco farmers
and quota holders. This offset would be invoked to end Phase II payments in 2004 when
manufacturers were assessed to pay for the quota buyout program.
Table 2. Planned Distribution of Phase II Trust Funds,
by State and Year
TotalAnnual Payments, $000
Sha re payments
St a t e % 1999-2010 1999 2000 2001 2002-08 2009-10
NC 37.95% $1,954,425 $144,210 $106,260 $151,800 $189,750 $111,953
KY 29.66% $1,527,490 $112,708 $83,048 $118,640 $148,300 $87,497
T N 7.57% $389,855 $28,766 $21,196 $30,280 $37,850 $22,332
SC 6.94% $357,410 $26,372 $19,432 $27,760 $34,700 $20,473
VA 6.58% $338,870 $25,004 $18,424 $26,320 $32,900 $19,411
GA 5.85% $301,275 $22,230 $16,380 $23,400 $29,250 $17,258
OH 1.36% $70,040 $5,168 $3,808 $5,440 $6,800 $4,012
IN 1.16% $59,740 $4,408 $3,248 $4,640 $5,800 $3,422
FL 1.13% $58,195 $4,294 $3,164 $4,520 $5,650 $3,334
MD 0.62% $31,930 $2,356 $1,736 $2,480 $3,100 $1,829
PA 0.43% $22,145 $1,634 $1,204 $1,720 $2,150 $1,269
MO 0.42% $21,630 $1,596 $1,176 $1,680 $2,100 $1,239
WV 0.28% $14,420 $1,064 $784 $1,120 $1,400 $826
AL 0.05% $2,575 $190 $140 $200 $250 $148
To tal 100.00% $5,150,000 $380,000 $280,000 $400,000 $500,000 $295,000
Source: Based on data from General Accounting Office, Tobacco Settlement: States’ Allocations of Phase
II Funds, GAO-03-262R, December 3, 2002, Washington, DC.
Tobacco Quota Buyout and Termination of Support
When Congress attempted to address the economic problems of tobacco farmers, it
was faced with economic complexities that were compounded by policy and program
inconsistencies and contradictions. In its report of January 26, 2001, the Commission on
Improving Economic Opportunity in Communities Dependent on Tobacco Production
While Protecting Public Health (commonly referred to as the Tobacco Commission)
examined these issues in detail.
It was the policy of the federal government to discourage consumption of cigarettes
(especially by young people) on the grounds that they were addictive and harmful to
human health. Yet, to the extent Americans reduce their consumption of tobacco
products, tobacco farmers were faced with a shrinking market. So, federal public health
policy worked to the disadvantage of tobacco farmers. Second, it was federal policy for
more than 60 years to balance U.S. tobacco production with demand, but at a price that
was substantially higher than the cost of production, and also higher than the price of
tobacco sold by foreign producers. To the disadvantage of tobacco producers, the high
price of U.S. tobacco caused it to be displaced by less expensive foreign-grown supplies
in both this country and worldwide. This displacement was translated into declining
Congress ultimately made a dramatic change in tobacco policy by terminating all
federal price support and management of supplies after crop year 2004 under provisions
of the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act of 2004 (Title VI of P.L. 108-357).
Compensation was to be made to both quota owners (landowners) and active producers
(farm operators) from assessments on tobacco manufacturers and tobacco importers. The
quota owner payments were at the rate of $7 per pound of basic quota on each farm in
2002. The active producer payments were at the rate of $3 per pound on 2002 effective
quota. The payments, totaling an estimated $9.6 billion, would be made in equal annual
installments over 10 years. Beginning with the 2005 crop, tobacco could be produced by
any farmer, in any location, and in any quantity. Prices would be freely negotiated
between producers and buyers, and there would be no federal income support for the
farmers. This legislation did not alter the availability to tobacco growers of federally
subsidized crop insurance, which similarly was available to growers of most crops.
While tobacco manufacturers would be paying for the buyout program, they also
would be the direct beneficiaries of an expected reduction in prices for U.S. produced
leaf. In addition, the remaining Phase II payments of about $3 billion ended in 2004
because the buyout legislation imposed assessments on manufacturers beginning in the
last quarter of calendar 2004.
For More Information
!CRS Report RS22046, Tobacco Quota Buyout.
!CRS Report RL31790, Tobacco Quota Buyout Proposals in the 108th