Historically, the tobacco industry has opposed FDA regulation, but now says it will support it. In exchange, farmers want to be paid for giving up their quotas, which are allotments dictating how much leaf they can grow.
In addition, tobacco state lawmakers say the subsidy program no longer helps farmers because it keeps U.S. tobacco prices too high to be competitive on the world market.
Once the lone bright spot in the U.S. export picture, it seems foreign sales of all U.S. farm goods increasingly are under pressure. Some of that pressure is market-driven, but most is political. Farm interests faced that fact once again this week north of the border.
Twenty-Five World Trade Organization members gathered in Montreal, this week, in hopes of settling some of their differences before next month's meeting of the entire 146 members of the WTO in Cancun.
Specifically, the Montreal meeting was called in hope of reconciling differences over how to reduce barriers to international trade in agricultural commodities. Exporting countries, including the United States, want other member nations to make significant cuts in subsidies and import tariffs. But importers, including the European Union and Japan, are offering much smaller cuts, claiming they need to protect their domestic producers
The European Union, which recently completed a major overhaul of its own subsidy programs, told members in Montreal that it is prepared to cut domestic support levels by 60 percent. But as promising as that might sound, U.S. Trade representative Robert Zoellick called the move, "a very important step, but not an acceptable result."
The U.S. and the European Union have initiated their own private talks hoping to come to terms on some of the biggest issues in agricultural trade. Nevertheless, any accord reached by the world's two largest trading blocs still would have to be approved by all 146 members of the WTO.