After months of discussion and negotiations, Congress has passed the tobacco buyout package and sent it to President Bush for approval.
Though the buyout is a great boon for tobacco farmers in North Carolina and across the South, some important elements were left out in the conference bill that emerged. The new Congress should address these omissions when it convenes in January.
Democrats and Republicans alike came together to create a program that will provide money to help tobacco farmers transition to new crops or to bow out of farming entirely. The government will be doling out $3.9 billion dollars to North Carolina's tobacco farmers over the next 10 years. That is sure to help the state's lagging rural economy.
Although legislators from both parties deserve a pat on the back for the tobacco buyout, many also deserve a swift kick to the rear. The conference committee that had to create a compromise from the differing House and Senate bills left out several important measures and reforms.
The original Senate version of the tobacco buyout gave more money to tobacco farmers, funded the buyout at the expense of cigarette manufacturers and placed regulation of the crop under the supervision of the Food and Drug Administration.