LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Tobacco farmers long on the defensive notched a victory Thursday when the U.S. Senate fended off efforts to eliminate the federal insurance program for the embattled crop.
The vote, coming as the Senate crafts a five-year farm bill, was seen crucial for farmers in Kentucky who still gamble with the weather and a contracting system to plant tobacco. The Bluegrass State remains the nation's top producer of burley tobacco, an ingredient in many cigarettes.
"It was a significant policy win for Kentucky farmers amid a very anti-tobacco Congress," University of Kentucky agricultural economist Will Snell said.
Snell said most tobacco farmers depend on crop insurance not only for risk protection, but to assist them in obtaining financing for the next crop.
"Without the crop insurance subsidy for tobacco, farmers will not take out full-cost insurance on tobacco, which would ... jeopardize future tobacco production," he said.
The Senate amendment proposed ending $33 million a year in insurance policies for tobacco farmers. It was opposed by 52 senators and supported by 44.