Iowa Public Television

 

Growers look to get cut of tobacco settlement

posted on January 28, 2000


FOUR MONTHS AFTER HURRICANE FLOYD DRENCHED THE STATE WITH 20 INCHES OF RAIN, NORTH CAROLINA IS DIGGING OUT FROM A "WHITE HURICANE." A RECORD TWO-FOOT SNOWFALL HAS LEFT THOUSANDS WITHOUT HEAT AND POWER. WITH MORE SNOW PREDICTED ON THE WAY, GOVERNOR JIM HUNT HAS DECLARED A STATE OF EMERGENCY.

IT DIDN'T TAKE A WEATHER-RELATED CRISIS TO MAKE NORTH CAROLINA TOBACCO FARMERS FEEL UNDER SIEGE. FACED WITH THE PROSPECT OF A SHRINKING DOMESTIC MARKET AND THE FALLOUT FROM THE GOVERNMENT'S LAWSUIT AGAINST THEIR INDUSTRY, THE GROWERS ARE FLOATING A STRATEGY TO EASE THEIR FINANCIAL PAIN.

TOBACCO PRODUCERS WERE CUT OUT OF THE ORIGINAL $205 BILLION SETTLEMENT. AS AN ACT OF GOOD WILL, TOBACCO COMPANIES AGREED TO PAY AN ADDITIONAL $5-BILLION DIRECTLY TO TOBACCO FARMERS OVER A TWELVE -YEAR PERIOD.

REALIZING THEIR FUTURE MAY BE BLEAK, NORTH CAROLINA GROWERS OF THE "GOLDEN LEAF" ARE ASKING FOR THEIR SHARE IN A "LUMP-SUM." THE MAIN STRATEGY BEING TOSSED AROUND IS TO SELL BONDS TO NORTH CAROLINIANS TO PROVIDE FUNDS FOR THE EARLY PAYMENT. THE DEBT WOULD BE PAID-OFF AS THE TOBACCO MONEY ROLLS-IN.

THOUGH HE HAS NOT ENDORSED THE PLAN, NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR JIM HUNT, WHO HEADS THE BOARD DISTRIBUTING THE PAY-OUTS, HAS EXPRESSED A WILLINGNESS TO REVIEW THE GROWERS PROPOSAL.

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