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Agriculture Press Release

September 30, 1999

Board Organized to Administer Tobacco Program; Meeting Set for Growers on October 8 in Live Oak

TALLAHASSEE Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford today announced that a certification board has been formed to administer an indemnity program for tobacco growers and quota owners impacted by the Master Settlement Agreement with four tobacco companies.

The certification board plans to review the program for growers on October 8 at a meeting in Live Oak. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. at the Suwannee County Agricultural Center.

Under the settlement, the companies agreed to establish the National Tobacco Grower Settlement Trust to provide financial aid to tobacco growers and quota owners who incurred losses when the demand for tobacco declined as a result of the settlement.

Tobacco companies will ultimately deposit a total of $5.15 billion in the trust account to be distributed among tobacco growers and quota owners in tobacco-producing states during the next 12 years. As a state with a relatively small amount of tobacco production, Florida will receive 1.13 percent of the total trust amount or $58 million. A total of $4.3 million is scheduled to be distributed to tobacco growers and quota owners in Florida by the end of this year.

Floridas certification board will determine the eligibility of tobacco growers and quota owners to share in the trust, based on data provided by the U.S. Department of Agricultures Farm Service Agency.

The certification board consists of three members, with one each appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford and Attorney General Bob Butterworth (see list below).

During the past two years, the tobacco quota, which is the amount of tobacco growers are authorized to produce by the USDA, has been reduced by 34 percent.

"The drastic reduction in tobacco quota has had a real impact on Florida growers and quota owners, who have seen a substantial reduction in tobacco revenue," Crawford said. "The distribution of the trust funds will help them recover some of their losses and adjust to changing conditions."

Five hundred families in Florida hold some tobacco quota and 283 farmers actually grow the crop. In 1998, tobacco was harvested on 6,800 acres in Florida, producing cash receipts of nearly $30 million. Tobacco is grown in 13 counties in North Florida, with production concentrated in Suwannee and Hamilton counties.

Later this year, the board will mail growers and quota owners a statement concerning the quota for which they will be certified. After growers and quota owners have signed and returned the certification statements, the board will send the certification information to Chase Manhattan Bank in New York, the trust fund administrator, which is expected to send checks directly to growers and quota owners by the end of December.

Florida Tobacco Certification Board

# Pleas Strickland, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Marketing and Development; appointed by Commissioner of Agriculture Bob Crawford.

# Sen. Richard Mitchell, R-Jasper; appointed by Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

# Harry McGhin, former executive director of the Farm Service Agency; appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush.

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For more information:

Pleas Strickland
(850) 488-5831


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