Clinton Talks With Tobacco Farmers
April 9, 1998
CLINTON: Well, good morning, everybody.
The first thing I'd like to do is thank Mr. Lyons (ph) for
hosting us, and thank all of you for being here. I thank the
members of the panel.
I'd also like to thank Governor Patton and Senator Ford and
Congressman Baesler for being here and riding down with me from
the airport. And I thank Lieutenant Governor Henry (ph), your
state auditor, Edward Hatchett, Senate President Saunders,
Senator Blevins, Speaker Richards.
And I want to thank county Judge McMurray (ph) and Mayor
Welty (ph), who came to meet me as well. And again, I'd like to
thank Margaret and Brent Lyons (ph) for hosting us here.
And I thank all of you for being here on the panel.
I know Secretary Glickman's already been down this way and
been doing some work. But I'd like to make a few comments about
where we are now in the evolution of this tobacco legislation.
The first thing I'd like to do is to say a special word of
appreciation to Wendell Ford. His work on the tobacco bill
that's now moving through the Senate I think has been very
valuable in trying to provide clear and certain protection to
tobacco farmers, to warehouses, to communities without
compromising our long-term goal of reducing teen smoking.
And I really wanted to say that he's been talking to me about
this for years. He and Congressman Baesler have done a very
good job of pushing your interests there in a way that is
consistent with what we're trying to do in reducing teen
I also want to say that, while I'm here, Governor, I think
it's only fitting that I begin these remarks by congratulating
the University of Kentucky for winning the basketball
CLINTON: As you know, Hillary and I were in Africa, and I
was getting up at amazing hours in the morning to watch these
games. I had to watch the championship game on a tape, but that
was really good.
Let me also say to those of you who are here and to the many
thousands of people outside this warehouse that are listening to
us or will be watching this, I am well-aware that the people who
farm tobacco and who work in this whole area have difficult
jobs. I know that it's family work, small farms, hand work;
that there was a flood in '97, and the year before, blue mold,
which made the work more difficult; and that there is a lot of
uncertainty now among people in this community, as I saw up and
down the road all the way in here.
Last year, a settlement was announced between the tobacco
companies and the state attorneys general to try to settle all
their lawsuits with a set of agreements which would dramatically
reduce teen smoking and provide some reimbursement to the state
governments and to the federal government for the public health.
But when that settlement was announced, there was absolutely
nothing in there that would protect farmers in the event the
overall volume of tobacco sales went down.
And so when I announced my reaction to their proposed
settlement and what kind of legislation I would support in the
Congress, I said that we had forgotten that, and that tobacco
farmers deserve protection, and that I would not sign
legislation that didn't have it in there.
And I want to reaffirm that to you today.
Yesterday, some tobacco executives indicated that they were
going to withdraw from the discussions with the Congress about
legislation. But despite that, I want to tell you that I believe
there's still a good chance we can get comprehensive legislation
this year that will not leave the farmers behind.
And again, I want to say to them, we have no interest
whatever in putting the tobacco companies out of business. I
just want to get them out of the business of selling tobacco to
And I think it's important. I think every American
recognizes that the tobacco farmers have not done anything
wrong. You're growing a legal crop. You're not doing the
marketing of the tobacco to children and that you're doing your
part as citizens.
So what I want to hear from you today is about what you have
to say to me that you want me and every member of our
administration, every member of Congress and the country to know
about this issue and where we go.
But let me just clearly state again what my concern is. We
know that even though it's against the law in every state, 3,000
children a day start smoking and 1,000 of them will have their
life shortened because of it. That's my concern overwhelmingly,
but I do not want to do anything in dealing with that concern
which will not honestly take account of the communities and the
people in the families that are involved in the tobacco farming.
And it seems to me that you have a big interest in actually
seeing legislation enacted as soon as possible if it provides
adequate protection for the farmers, because then we'll be
helping the children, which I know you all want to do anyway,
and we'll be doing it under terms where you'll actually have
some certainty there, where you'll actually know what is going
to happen and you'll feel some level of security.
And if the structure of Senator Ford's proposal prevails,
then it would, as I understand it, be consistent with the wishes
of over 97 percent of the farmers in this area which voted in
the referendum that's required every three years to keep the
tobacco program intact.
So I tried to get prepared, and I got an earful on
the way down here, as I always do, from Wendell and Scotty and
Paul, and I thank them for that.
So I'd rather spend the rest of the time just listening to
you. And I'd like to ask our host to open and maybe explain --
keep in mind, you've got several members of the national press
here, too, and they'll be reporting this to the country as a
And maybe, Mr. Lyons (ph), it would be helpful if you could
just very briefly explain what goes on in this warehouse, as if
none of us knew anything about it, and how that fits with the
tobacco farmers and what your concerns are with the legislation
now pending in Congress.
There's a microphone. I think we can turn it up so you can
speak into it. And if you want to sit, you can. If you want to
stand, you can. Do whatever makes you feel most comfortable.
LYONS (PH): Thank you, Mr. President. And we certainly are
overjoyed to have you with us this morning. We thank you for
coming and giving your time and sharing with us our concerns.
Mainly, briefly, I will, for those that maybe haven't ever
been in a tobacco warehouse before, you're in one now.
And -- but our function is we take tobacco from the farmer,
and he brings it in, and we weigh it, put it in these piles or
stacks or whatever you want to call them that you see here
At that time we put them in -- some of you have been in the
back. We had a sale here yesterday.
So we haven't had a lot of time to move this tobacco off the
But when this tobacco is lined up for the
farmer, the government graders come in, and that is the program
that we have now. They put a price on this tobacco that
guarantees the farmer that he will get X amount of dollars for
that regardless of what happens.
Then after that procedure is done, the tobacco companies will
come in, and they will walk -- we have the auction, takes place.
And they will bid either over this price or they refuse to bid
over. At that time, it goes to the government coop or the
Then the farmers will come here to the little office here
behind us in the warehouse to pay those farmers their money.
And then at a later date, the companies will reimburse us for
Each pile of this tobacco set in here represents about
About four of those piles would take one acre of land to
grow. That one acre would return to that farmer approximately
$5,000. In return, the federal government and the state
government will receive around $70,000 in tax money.
Without the farmer, this place wouldn't even be here. It
would be worthless. And the warehouseman is totally dependent
on the farmer. And that's why that we really urge, Mr.
President, that we can get some answers before you leave on our
program, our quota system and our price support system.
And we beg that you will do whatever you could to continue
that program for us.
CLINTON: It might be a -- I want to ask Mr. Keegle (ph) to
But I want to point out -- and then we'll get into you --
because this is one of the things that's important to the
American people to understand why we need the kind of approach
that Senator Ford has recommended -- that Mr. Baesler has a bill
on in the House of Representatives.
You say that this will bring the farmers
approximately $5,000 an acre?
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE SCOTTY BAESLER (D-KY): Approximately,
CLINTON: And what will be the net income to the farmer out
of that $5,000?
BAESLER: It would vary. Some people are more efficient than
others. Probably $2,000 to $2,500.
CLINTON: Now, Mr. Keegle, you're the president of the burley
tobacco growers cooperative. And yet you've also been involved
with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. So why don't you just
comment and bring that microphone over closer to you. Why don't
you tell us a little bit about the economics of tobacco, what
you're trying to do, and how you believe that we can vigorously
pursue this Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and protect the
interest of the people whom you are elected to represent?
KEEGLE: Well, Mr. President, I like the first thing. A
couple of years ago, we started working with several of the
public health groups. And probably the first hurdle we had to
cross was to, as we told Secretary Glickman last week, that we
weren't there to save tobacco. What we were there to do is to
save our family farms. But to separate the two is nearly
Without tobacco in the state of Kentucky, we will lose half
of our family farms. It's that simple. There's not an
There are enhancements. There are other ways to make some
money, but nothing that will keep our family farms there.
We began working with the health groups in trying to see if
there was some common ground that we both could agree on.
Certainly, there was one in that nobody wanted youth access to
tobacco. Farmers don't want youth access to tobacco.
If we had the ability to destroy that part of our crop in our
field, we would do that.
But obviously that wouldn't do much good,
because that's not the point at which the youth access the
So we have -- we have that in common. We met for five or six
meetings in Washington and other places and were able to develop
10 core principles. Those core principles are statements that
both of the groups agree on and basically start communication.
We have done that. We've been very successful with it. We
have another meeting next week in which I hope that we may be
able to endorse the entire body of Senator Ford's leaf (ph) act.
The Leaf (ph) Act represents many of the ideas that we came
up with in the core principles, including a way to get economic
development into these areas that are going to be hit. As
consumption goes down, a town like Carrollton is going to be
hit, and there is going to be a lot of pain here. And we need
ways to make agricultural developments here, make economic
Within Senator Ford's package is an educational package that
allows anybody associated with the production of tobacco to
educate their children in secondary education -- unheard of
before in agricultural communities, something that we really,
really need. This tobacco program that is the mainstay of the
Leaf (ph) Act of what Senator Ford has developed is so, so
important to us.
Nearly a million pounds of tobacco were sold here in
Carrollton yesterday. And the company did not bid on one single
pile of that tobacco. The co-op that I am president of and all
the farmers own (ph) together will process all of that tobacco
and hold it for sale at a later date.
Every farmer that received money out of that million pounds
yesterday got money from the tobacco growers cooperative. And
that is the mainstay of the Leaf (ph) Act. That's what protects
us. That's the shield. That's the only thing that's kept us
from the companies. That's the only thing that protects us from
them coming down.
It's not like most agriculture commodities where you have
several buyers. We only have three or four.
And so we have to have that protection to
remain viable. Without that protection, we become an appendage
of the tobacco companies and we're completely at their mercy.
And I don't think that Congress or this administration or the
American people want that to happen.
The Leaf Act protects us from that.
CLINTON: And basically, it protects you by preserving the
structure of the program we now have, so that when the co-op
buys the tobacco, the farmers get the income immediately, the
co-op holds the tobacco in storage until market conditions
support the release of the tobacco sale at a acceptable market
price. Isn't that right?
KEEGLE (PH): That's right. That's correct. What really
concerns us, as producers right now is there are some other
alternatives being offered in Congress. One of them, Senator
Lugar's plan that simply buys the tobacco farmer off and gives
us no program. We become that appendage of the tobacco
And there's no supports, no guarantees, no way to be able to
produce a high-value crop that's tobacco and keep our family
farms viable. And we would ask that you interrupt (ph) that
that's not taking care of tobacco farmers and that that doesn't
support one of your elements of the key principles.
CLINTON: Well, basically, what I understand -- I agree with
you about that. But I want to just make sure everyone
understands this. The way the Ford bill works -- and Wendell, if
I make a mistake, hop in here.
U.S. SENATOR WENDELL FORD (D-KY): You can bet on it.
CLINTON: The -- poor, shy man.
The bill offers an up-front, generous buy-out proposal to
people who want to get out. And the assumption is that there
will be some older people or others who want to get out, and
that that would, therefore, reduce the total number of
producers. Then it keeps the program in place.
Then if at some future date, the demand goes even below that,
there are substantial transition payments and assistance
payments offered to communities, warehouses and farmers.
And along the way, there are kind of the education
and training benefits offered that we provide, for example, to
people that are displaced when there are trade changes, changes
in the American economy caused by trading flows. It may benefit
the overall economy but disadvantage people, so we owe them an
extra bit of help to get started.
And I think there are two points to make here to those who
would be skeptical about the approach that is being advocated.
And the first and the most important one is the one you've
already said. At least to date, no one has figured out how to
tell a tobacco farmer with a straight face that you should
produce another crop and we will facilitate you getting into
alternative crop production.
The average farm in Kentucky is how big? Four acres? Five
(UNKNOWN): Average tobacco production...
CLINTON: Tobacco production. Not farm, but tobacco
There is no known crop with the same income per acre. So if
you were going to pay somebody to transition, one of the things
you'd have to do is buy them all a whole lot more land. And I
think that's a very important point to make.
The second point that needs to be made is, if you dismantle
this program, you would not end the production of tobacco. You
would end the ability of all these family farmers to produce
tobacco, and you would probably create a structure more like
what you see in some parts of California where the ultimate
processor in California, food processor -- in this case, the
processor would be the cigarette companies -- would control the
farming, and everybody would be a hired hand, and the income
would all flow up, except for a salary.
Isn't that basically your conclusion of what would happen?
KEEGLE (PH): I don't think there's any question that's what
would happen, and it would be inevitable with Senator Lugar's
bill if it does away with our tobacco program.
CLINTON: So, I think it's very important for the members of
the Congress, members of the press and people out in the country
to understand that we don't want to be guilty of the law of
unintended consequences here. What we're trying to do is
improve the public health, cut teen smoking, get enough money
into this program to deal with the -- some of the larger health
consequences in our society that have already developed. But we
need to think a long time before we break down on the structure
that is -- that you see from the Cincinnati Airport, which is in
Kentucky, all the way driving here.
I think it's very, very important, because I think this is
not a very well-understood point.
I'd like to call on Amy Barkley next who is the director of
the Coalition for Health and Agricultural Development and
involves public health advocates actually working with farmers
to address both the health and the economic issues.
Amy, would like to say anything about what we're discussing
BARKLEY: Yes. First, Mr. President, I'd really like to
thank you on behalf of all health advocates in Kentucky for your
strong stand against youth smoking. Really, it's historic. We
know no U.S. president ever has taken the stand that you have.
And we really appreciate it.
And also you coming here does prove that you're also
interested in the, you know, economic health of our family
farmers in our rural communities. And we share that dedication
to both issues. And we think there are ways to protect both
children and farmers.
And Rod talked a lot about our joint efforts on the youth
smoking issue. But also the tobacco program is another area of
common ground. Health advocates in the tobacco-producing states
have supported the tobacco program, or at least some type of
price support and production control program.
For all the reasons you mentioned, it's really in our
interest to see that the production is controlled and that
people don't become direct employees of the cigarette companies.
And that, you know, we really do recognize that at
this point all of our family farms do exist, in many cases,
because of tobacco and the reliable income that it provides.
But we are also strongly committed to moving away from this
tobacco dependence. And that's why we were delighted to see
that Senator Ford included a voluntary buy-out in his bill.
That was kind of the only sticking point for us.
We felt like farmers in Kentucky in some cases are in a
tobacco trap, and they need the ability to be compensated for
their quota if they want to get out.
So I think it's been really productive, this relationship
that we've had with the burley co-op and Karen's organization
and many other agriculture groups in Kentucky, because there is
no one in Kentucky, no matter how deeply they are rooted in the
tobacco culture, that wants kids to smoke.
And none of us health advocates want to take tobacco out of
the dictionary or drive people off of their farms. We just have
to really get creative. I know it's not going to be easy. But
we have to figure out a way to reconcile both, because, as you
know, the future health of our children depends on it, and we
also recognize that the future of our family farms depends on
what happens on this issue.
CLINTON: Let me ask you a question that I didn't ask Rod,
and maybe you can -- anybody can feel free to comment.
One of the things that occurs to me is that, if we allow this
program to lapse -- let's suppose we have some version of the
McCain bill. Now the fight's going on now in Washington with
the tobacco companies as they say that it raises a lot more
money from them than we had estimated. They say it will raise
the price of cigarettes even more than we had estimated. They
say it will cut consumption more than we had estimated.
Therefore, they say they'll be at great risk and that it's
inconsistent with the original agreement.
And so we've got to work through all that. But one of the
things that, you know -- the provisions for the tobacco farmers
gets almost no notice.
But it occurs to me that, if we were to abolish the
program all together -- you give everybody some sort of a cash
payment for their allocation and then just abolish the program,
then what you think would happen, I think would happen -- first
of all, there'd be no restrictions on production. And what I
think would likely happen is there would be more tobacco grown
at a lower price, which would make it uneconomical for you, so
the companies would take it over directly.
But from the point of view of our public health objective, if
more tobacco is grown at a lower price, that undermines our
desire to make it -- make a pack of cigarettes high enough in
price that it will be part of what discourages children from
And so it seems to me that that's -- that's the public health
angle here that someone like you, Amy -- that we need this -- we
need this highlighted from a public health point of view so that
people in, you know, the vast, vast majority of our country that
don't know anything about tobacco farming, don't have a dog in
this hunt, and don't understand it and don't -- want to make
sure we're not doing something funny here, they need to
understand that, ironically, if we dismantle this program, we
might undermine the goals of reducing teen smoking.
I'd like to call on Maddy Mack (ph) now to talk a little bit
about this from the point of view of an individual farmer.
She's had an interesting family history on her farm, and I think
I'll let her tell it to you, especially since we've apparently
gotten her local reporter in here. I hope we have.
MADDY MACK (ph), TOBACCO FARMER: Thank you, Mr. President.
CLINTON: Thank you.
MACK (ph): I figured if when you got here, things would be
And I thank you very much, just like you will change this --
the idea of this tobacco.
I am Maddy Mack (ph) from Brandenburg, Kentucky. I own a
And I've been married 40 years. And I have four
children that I educated -- three at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama
-- on tobacco.
And I served on the federation -- a Southern cooperative
board. And I raised 38 foster children on this 100-acre farm in
the period of '64 to '92.
None of those children smoked. My four children did not
smoke. I don't smoke. My husband don't smoke. And we're
against children smoking, Mr. President. But we shouldn't be
penalized on account of children smoking.
Now, it takes the parents -- it goes back to the parents to
raise their children in the (GAP)
And when they get older, they will not depart from it.
And you have to be able to teach these children. You can't
depend on the church doing it all. The parents are going to
have to teach these children the right way about this tobacco.
Tell them the right way and the wrong way. And it's a wrong way
in having a gun, it's a wrong way in drinking whiskey and
All of these children have to be taught. I never had a child
to go to jail on tobacco or either alcohol because I never did
have that in the house.
And so I look at tobacco -- it's been good to us. It paid
for our 100-acre farm.
Mr. President, in back there in 1962, we couldn't go to the
bank and borrow money. They wouldn't let us have it. Well, we
had to something. What we going to do? Now we got this farm.
We are in debt, and we've got three little kids.
My husband had to work off the farm. I had the main
responsibility of the farm. I put my kids in the car, put them
under shade trees, and I worked that ground until it was ready
And tobacco's been good. We paid for our farm off the
tobacco. We educated our kids off of tobacco.
: We paved our old driveway with blacktop on
We pay our property taxes. We pay the preacher on Sunday
We can't leave him out.
We pay for our fertilizer. We overhaul our tractors and our
wagons and we buy tires. We buy diesel fuel. We buy
You know, the farmer has a hard time. Things when you go to
buy it, it's so much higher. And the farmer raises it and
you're going to sell it, but you can't come out if things are
going to go higher and the farmer gets the same amount on
You know, something's going to have to give. Something's
going to have to give on this stuff.
Now, we raise hogs. Hogs are cheap as dirt.
And we feed them, Mr. President, and they don't bring
nothing, and that's a stinky, smelly job.
And we have cattle. Well, they're not up to par. They ain't
And the only thing that we look forward to is tobacco, end of
the year, so we can have a little Christmas, have the grandkids
come down and play Santa Claus.
Now, this is the thing that we look forward to. We pay, like
I said, property taxes. We pay our insurance, and we pay the
man to help us on the farm.
And we pay his SS -- Social Security, and we pay his
Medicare, and we just try to live right and do right on tobacco.
Now, tobacco is also to be paid by the farmer. We pay the
support price. We pay for it to being sold.
We even pay for bringing it up here on the floor.
And tobacco pays for itself. The farmer's doing
all the this. And I can't see why they want to raise the pack
of cigarettes and the farmer's still working hard and we don't
see nothing. We don't -- and that's not right.
Now, you can take tobacco. I don't care if you put out 200
acres of tobacco and put it out there and just leave it alone.
That tobacco ain't going to grow by itself. We need the
almighty God to send the sunshine and the rain if this tobacco
is going to grow.
And that's the way it is with raising children. If you're
going to raise children, you've got to sit down and you have to
talk to those children and put God in them, take them to Sunday
school and church, and let them know this is the rules and
regulations that God requires. And this is what makes children
grow, and this is what makes children senior citizens, decent
senior citizens of this world.
Now, you can't do anything without God. Nothing. You can't
do a thing without God.
And so if these people hollering about their children -- I'm
against children smoking. I'm telling you, it hurts my heart
when I see them. But cutting out tobacco is not going to help a
thing, because they're going to go to something else.
If I was riding down the road and I met a young man coming up
the road smoking, I would pass him, that's fine. But if one's
coming up the road drinking or got a gun, I don't know which way
I would go, because you never know.
So, that's how bad it is. We holler on tobacco, and tobacco,
like you say, it's a legal crop, Mr. President.
Now, the farmers -- it would be devastating in my town. I'll
talk about Brandenburg, because I'm affiliated with the Kentucky
minority farmers ever since '82.
And these old farmers look forward to putting that tobacco
out and getting it to the market and to be able to get paid
right then as you bring it to the market when it's sold.
And they wouldn't have nothing to pay bills
without tobacco. If they have something equal up to tobacco,
that's fine. We'll dump the tobacco. But we've got to have
something to bring up to the expectation of tobacco.
So, Mr. President, I see that we -- it disturbs me when we've
taken care of the whole thing and the people are hopping on it.
And everything, if you look at it, tobacco ain't only bad --
it's good, just like anything else.
Thank you, Mr. President.
CLINTON: You guys didn't oversell her.
It was just like you said it would be.
Let me call next on Karen Armstrong Cummings, because she's
the managing director of the commodity growers cooperative,
which develops markets for family farm products. And they're
interested in preserving the future of small farms.
So how are we going to preserve the small farms and do
something about teen smoking? What options are there? Could
you give that microphone back, Roz (ph)?
KAREN ARMSTRONG CUMMINGS: Mr. President, again, I'd like to
thank you as others have for your being here and for your
leadership on these issues. I think your question gets at right
of the heart of what both Rod (ph) and Mattie (ph) were saying
in this coordination with the health organizations. We need to
preserve the tobacco program.
In working on the National Commission on Small Farms that
Secretary Glickman set up this past year, we looked at this
whole issue of all of the federal policies and programs that
have really caused small farmers not to be able to get a fair
price for their product, just like Mattie was talking about.
The prices on slime (ph) production and on cattle
-- there's an enormous amount of federal program policy that is
really focused on the whole idea of get big or get out of
It's not been that way with the tobacco program. The tobacco
program has been able to keep the small farm system intact, as
the previous speaker just said.
So we came up with over 140 recommendations that are in the
National Commission on Small Farms report, which I'm sure -- has
Secretary Glickman discussed this with you, Mr. President?
CLINTON: Thank you.
CUMMINGS: We came up with a 100 -- over 140 recommendations
in all program areas of ways that USDA could redirect their
effort in market development, in encouraging rural cooperatives,
such as Mattie (ph) was talking about -- she works with the
federation of Southern co-ops -- in directing economic
development toward farm-based rural development, toward economic
development that really respects the small farm system that we
have in this region of the country and that really gets USDA's
policies focused on the family farm, not on corporate
agriculture, not on the types of assistance for contract
production that we see many farms moving into because that's
what they see as an option because of a lack of support systems
that are out there.
So we've got all those recommendations in there, and there's
a specific section on tobacco. There are two recommendations.
One, it says that USDA should work with your office and other
federal agencies to examine the success of the tobacco program
and what we've learned from the tobacco program in keeping the
small farm system in place so that USDA and others could advise
As a matter of fact, in that portion of the report
it says, it's not just that the -- it's not just the crop to
which there is no alternative. It's the tobacco program. And
we've talked about that so much that it reminded us of your
friend Jim Carville, who said, "It's the economy, stupid." So
we said, "It's the tobacco program, stupid."
And we would like for you to join us in talking to the
senators who are pushing some sort of alternative to do away
with the program that it's the tobacco program that has kept
these in place.
And that's the main point that we need for the small farm
system in this -- in this part of the Southeast.
We need to really set up the USDA programs and the state and
local programs where farmers can get a fair price for their
products. If we can do that in tobacco, we can do that with
other USDA programs if we just really take that focus.
CLINTON: Thank you.
This is really not exactly the time or place for this. But
if you get beyond tobacco and you look at other small farm
issues, the reason this program has worked for small farmers is
that you've had a -- first of all, you've had an allocation
system which keeps the price within some bounds, although it
varies still quite a bit, as all of you know, depending on
weather conditions and other things and because you've got this
coop system that really works to give the farmer cash money on
the front end. Even if the big tobacco companies -- cigarette
companies -- don't pay you right away, the co-op will.
And I think we really need to look at -- this, again, is off
the subject we're here to meet about today. But before I leave
office in 2001, I really hope that we will have been able to set
up a kind of an alternative framework of policies that will
enable family farmers who live in places where this is not even
an optional crop, where they've got to do something else, and
where they're doing what most tobacco farmers are doing -- they
have some income from off the farm and some income from on the
farm -- to be able to continue to do that.
The whole theory behind this whole -- you know,
going to a completely free market in agriculture -- was that you
would get more efficient production. But the truth is the
family farmers that have been put out of business, by and large,
have not been put out of business from inefficiency of
production. They've been put out of business because they
didn't have enough cash to stand the bad years.
CLINTON: I mean, at least, that is my belief.
That is what I think, based on my experience in a totally
different agricultural environment.
CUMMINGS: That was in our findings as well -- that some of
the areas that really need to be looked at was access to capital
and the whole lending system.
Another area was the concentration of agricultural markets,
which Secretary Glickman has been doing some work on, I know.
But we also made a recommendation -- again this is not
directly related to tobacco -- but most tobacco farmers are also
beef cattle, dairy farmers. They're engaged in other types of
And we want to strengthen that entire small farm system, like
you talked about.
One of the recommendations that we made that I really wanted
to bring to your attention was a recommendation for a
presidential commission on market concentration to really look
at how the concentration of markets in the agricultural sector
has caused us not to be able to get the prices for beef cattle,
for swine, for poultry, for other types of operations that we
also rely on in this part of the U.S.
CLINTON: If you look at how you sell cattle, or especially
how you -- how increasingly hog operations are going, and you
compare that to how the tobacco co-op works as a buyer of last
resort so that the cash is transferred to the farmer immediately
and someone else basically is holding the crop until it can be
sold and paying the price of holding the crop, it gives you some
idea of what -- you know, it would be good if we could figure
out a way to do.
Now, it's very different with live animals that, you know,
you still have to feed, you still have to do...
CUMMINGS: They don't warehouse too well.
CLINTON: They don't warehouse too well, and you've still got
to feed them. So it's a -- I don't -- none of these issues are
simple. If they were simple, we wouldn't have to worry about
But I do think you made a good point. And I want to get back
to the subject at hand, but I promise you, I'll spend some time
on this, because it's very important to me...
CUMMINGS: Thank you, Mr. President.
CLINTON: ... to see that we don't lose every small farmer in
America just because of the structure of the money economy, the
finance economy, as opposed to the efficiency of the operation.
I'm not interested in protecting any inefficient operators
who can't compete. But I've seen enough crops come in now over
the course of my life in enough different areas to believe that
it's more the way the money economy's structured and the way the
products are brought to market than the efficiency of the farmer
that's changed the structure of farming.
The reason you've got all these small farmers here is you've
got the allocation, the limited production and the cooperative
CUMMINGS: That's right.
CLINTON: I believe that.
Mr. Sprague (ph), you want to go next? You're the president
of the Kentucky Farm Bureau, and I understand you're a
fifth-generation farmer, and you have 3,000 acres of crop. That
makes you a big tobacco farmer. It makes you a small rice
farmer in Arkansas and a big tobacco farmer in Kentucky.
SPRAGUE (PH): Thank you very much, Mr. President. And I own
3,000 acres. I don't raise that much tobacco. That would be a
big crop, for sure.
Let me thank you for coming here. I think your visit here
shows that this national debate that we have on tobacco, we need
to put faces on that, and that's what we'd like to do.
It's very easy to talk about punishing the big tobacco
companies for their evil doings down the way.
But what we want to show you that this gets
back to the people. And we have 60,000 hard-working family
farms in this state that depend very heavily on a tobacco crop,
not only -- and these people generate about a billion dollars
worth of income for the farmers during that process here in
And that money is all spent in our rural communities. And it
generates, you know, economists say three or four times as it
goes through the economy.
So not only are we talking about farmers. We're also talking
about small-business people, our agricultural suppliers in our
rural communities, our car dealers, our grocery stores, our
hardwares. When we talk about dismantling of the tobacco
industry, we're talking about the influence it has on many, many
people in our communities.
And I know you almost made my speech for me there earlier.
But I think the tobacco community has made it possible that
Kentucky has been able to maintain this structure of small farms
-- that's not anywhere else, I guess, in the country have been
able to maintain this structure -- because of our tobacco
program; and its ability to generate enough income for farmers
to stay on the farm; and at the same time, be able to make a
living for their family and also the money it generates in
keeping our rural communities going.
I think the biggest thing our farmers are concerned about is
this uncertainty in the whole tobacco industry. So, that's why
we are in favor of some resolution to this national tobacco
We think we need a policy at the national
level that will give some stability to the industry, and as that
comes back to us as farmers.
It's very difficult for a farmer to make a long-term plan on
his farm -- how much he should invest in barns and equipment not
knowing next year what's going to happen to our tobacco program.
So therefore, we think that -- we believe that we should have
a policy, and this policy should give some stability to the
industry. And it should promote our best interests and not
punish us for our best efforts.
Mr. President, what we need is your leadership at this time.
This issue has become so politicized between Democrats and
Republicans, we need somebody of your stature that can take this
thing by the throat and push it through.
It's at the time when we need -- we definitely need some kind
of direction from the White House and your administration to see
that it gets done.
Now Senator Ford, Congressman Baesler, our Governor Patton
and other members of our congressional delegation have worked
hard to make sure that the farmers are into this mechanisms that
are being talked about in the legislation to take care of us.
But the thing that worries us, in this legislation, we have to
be fair in that we cannot afford to bankrupt our tobacco
companies, because if that happens and our industry is shut
down, we're not going to have any of this money to compensate
the states and the federal treasury, our growers.
And I think, as many of us have said here, there's not a
tobacco farmer that doesn't believe that we need to reduce youth
smoking. We're all in favor of that.
And we felt strongly that many of the provisions in the
original settlement that went as far as reducing the
advertising, restricting advertising, restricting marketing to
educational programs, we felt some of those things were a very
good start in reducing youth smoking.
You know, I think as all us have said, though,
many of us believe that this responsibility goes back to our
parents and I know my father was a smoker and he made a big deal
with us as kids that he'd give us $1,000 if we didn't smoke by
the time we were 21, and it worked.
You know, I've often thought about this might be a cheaper
deal than what we're talking about, (OFF-MIKE), if we could work
something out on that.
But, Mr. President, what we're asking for you to do is to
take your leadership and give us a fair and equitable treatment.
We agree with you strongly that we need to reduce youth
smoking. But we can't afford to completely dismantle our tobacco
industry. It means too much to the citizens in Kentucky and
North Carolina and Southerners of eight other states.
So, we would ask you to give it your best shot and I think we
can get this thing back on the train and win both objectives --
reduce youth smoking and still have an economic industry that we
can all be proud of in Kentucky.
CLINTON: Let me, if I could and I would invite -- I know
I've got two more panelists I want to call on -- but, and I
would invite any of you to kick in on. Let me -- you have
stated the sort of summary of where you are and where you think
the farmers are so well, I think it might be worthwhile to go
back to the beginning here.
Just remember how this whole thing came up. There were two
things going on. First of all, the federal Food and Drug
Administration opened an inquiry and found as a factual matter
that there was an effort made to market to tobacco products to
young people; that it was not only against the law but it was
likely to become more addictive to them if they did it -- if it
had -- if kids started smoking when they were young rather than
if they started after they were adults when they use it more in
moderation and all that.
And that the health consequences were considerable.
That was the, you know, the findings.
Simultaneous with that, a number of states that filed suits
against the tobacco companies, claiming that they had marketed
cigarettes to children in violation of the law all these years
and that had led to not only injury to the individuals, but vast
costs to the states through their medical programs.
And then there were the private lawsuits, the people that got
lung cancer and all. And all these things came together, and
the tobacco companies and the -- basically the state attorneys
general and the representatives of the private plaintiffs came
up with their proposed settlement in which they agreed among
other things to pay more money to defray some of the health care
costs, to run up the price of cigarettes some to make it less
attractive and to reduce or change their advertising practices.
But in order to get all that done comprehensively, they had
to pass a bill through Congress because they also have to deal
with the federal Food and Drug Administration program. So now,
we're in a situation where, as you pointed out, there are lots
of different agendas here and lots of different things going on.
I do believe, however, that there is a bipartisan majority of
people in the Congress in both houses, in both parties, who
honestly just want to do as much as they reasonably can to
reduce smoking by young people as quickly as they reasonably
can, in a way that does not put the tobacco companies out of
business and, even more important, that most of us is not really
unduly unfair to you.
So what you're saying to me is that right now the uncertainty
is the worst enemy you have, and what we need is to get this
thing done in Congress this year; do it in a way that achieves
our goal of driving down teen smoking as much as we can, as fast
as we can; and let's you know what the rules are. Now, let me
ask you just specifically so, I mean, because you didn't -- I
mean I assumed you'd believe this but you didn't say it
It seems to me that the greatest balance of certainty for the
farmers in our efforts to reduce teen smoking is in some version
of what Senator Ford has proposed. That is, if you assume that
-- let's just assume that through whatever means.
The American Medical Association, for example, says
that because there are so many kids out there more or less on
their own that the advertising has a bigger impact on inducing
kids to start smoking, even in their -- than peer pressure does.
So if you assume all that, then it seems to me the best
proposal is something like something that would offer a buy-out
that's generous and fair and adequate to people that want to get
out. Because there's no easy substitution, as all of you've
Then for all those that don't get out -- because you assume
that if all the kids start, you know, if you cut teen smoking in
half, then within some number of years, the aggregate demand for
tobacco in America will go down. So some people get out, and
you pay them a legitimate price to get out. Then the other
people who are still in operate under a program that controls
production and gives the family farmers a chance to survive.
That's basically what Wendell wants to do.
And in addition to that, since not every -- maybe as many
people -- maybe there won't be enough people get out for the
market reduction, we don't know that, it also provides the
structure within which you get aid to warehouses, aid to
communities and aid to individuals for continuing education and
training, as I said, just the same way we would with people that
are dislocated from trade.
If we pass something like that, is that the best thing to do?
I mean, is that basically what you would recommend that we do?
SPRAGUE (PH): Yes, I think so. The other big component of
this is that we export about half of our tobacco. And any
efforts to reduce those exports would be very detrimental to our
farm people. And we in the United States are really a small
producer of tobacco when you take all the world's population.
So to think that we are going to stop smoking because we quite
exporting tobacco is really a little ridiculous when we're such
really a small time player in the whole world of production.
So, we need to keep those channels open. We can stop it here
in this country, but all we're doing is giving a license for
farmers in Brazil or Malawi or some other place to raise more
tobacco. And that's exactly what they're doing. When we stop,
they raise more. So we in Kentucky are set up. We have
adequate soils, climate, manpower
to raise a premium crop and one that the world -- it's in
demand. And so we would like to be able to keep continually
CLINTON: OK. Marisa (ph), would you like to talk a little
bit about how you view this issue?
MARISA (PH): Sure. Back in 1983 I had a grandmother who
died of cancer, as you know. And it did affect me.
And I think that I'm totally against teens who decide to
But I've lived here in Kentucky all my life.
I've been born and raised here. And I feel that tobacco farmers
are going to be in trouble when you decide to raise taxes on
I think that, basically, it is going to make a lot of tobacco
families lose money, and it's going to make it a lot harder to
put food on the table.
But on the other hand, I do think that teens need to
understand more about the consequences of smoking before it's
too late. Like my grandmother -- she got cancer. No one really
knows the consequences when they're that young. You just want
to live, you know.
And I think that, as an adult, it's better if you decide
then. Children need to know the consequences of smoking.
CLINTON: What do you think the most effective -- I should
say that Marisa (ph) is a, I think a junior at Carroll County
High School. Is that right?
MARISA (ph): That's right.
CLINTON: What do you think the most effective thing we can
do would be to reduce teen smoking?
Let me just say there are lots of people who think the most
effective thing you can do is just make cigarettes a lot more
expensive. There are other people who think the most effective
thing you can do is to stop the cigarette companies from doing
any advertising that could be specifically or extra appealing to
Then there are people who think that there's nothing you can
do except to try to get the parents and the religious leaders
and community leaders to try to teach the kids not to do it in
the first place.
What is your sense of what the most effective thing that we
could do to discourage your peers from beginning to smoke?
MARISA (PH): Well, basically, the most I've heard is
disciplinary action for teenagers. But as a teen myself, I'm
not into discipline that much. I mean, I think that positive
instances like, maybe things that children can look forward to
by being a non-smoker helps more than having people say -- Well,
you're going to get
punished for smoking this, and you're going to get fined for
I'm sure they've all heard that. But I don't think they've
ever heard of rewards for being a non-smoker and choosing not to
CLINTON: Do you believe that most teenagers actually do know
and believe that it is dangerous?
MARISA (ph): I do believe that they actually do, but
sometimes people really don't care.
CLINTON: When you're 16, you think you're going to live
forever, don't you?
MARISA (PH): Exactly. They don't that it's going to hit
CLINTON: I did.
MARISA (PH): Consequences are hard and they do come fast and
slow. They think they're going to live forever and, you know,
I'm going to die anyway. But it's how you die that is
important. I think that your health and safety is important,
especially on teens.
CLINTON: So you think if we could -- that's what Bill said.
You know, he said his daddy gave him $1,000 if he didn't smoke
by the time he was 21.
MARISA (PH): Yes, that's a kind of incentive.
CLINTON: And so you think a positive -- some sort of
positive -- incentive program would be effective?
MARISA (PH): Exactly. I do think that. It worked for you,
obviously. And it worked (OFF-MIKE).
CLINTON: Thank you.
Dr. Goatley (ph) -- Dr. William Goatley (ph) is the pastor of
the First Baptist Church in Eminence, Kentucky, and I thought we
ought to give him a chance to say whether he thinks the
religious community should have any role in this whole issue.
CLINTON: Thank you.
Dr. Goatley (ph) -- Dr. William Goatley (ph) is the pastor of
the First Baptist Church in Eminence, Kentucky, and I thought we
ought to give him a chance to say whether he thinks the
religious community should have any role in this whole issue.
GOATLEY (ph): Mr. President, I'd like to say three things
during this two minutes. First of all, I'd like to say that 40
years in this community has enabled me to see change in the
tobacco economy. I've had people who have and are farmers.
I have people who have labored on the farms. I have people
who are part of the manufacturing industry of tobacco and for
all of these people tobacco is a way of life and it is a type of
I think your being here means that you are sensitive to the
reality that tobacco is a way of life and a livelihood for many
Secondly, I have seen people who have moved into alternative
employments over against the three categories that I just
And the reality is there is going to have to be some type of
alternative within the tobacco economy.
Thirdly, I feel that you are on a crusade to steer youth away
from becoming addicted and enticed into this fad of smoking.
And I hope you will stay on your crusade.
So we welcome you to this part of Kentucky
where tobacco is still a king, and all of us are aware of the
challenge that is before us -- the challenge to create a kind of
livelihood and way of life for these three categories of people
that I have just mentioned among whom I have worked for 40
CLINTON: Thank you very much. That's a very -- that was a
very moving statement to me.
No one knows exactly why but, for whatever reason, we know
that teen smoking has in fact been on the rise. And the
overwhelming evidence -- or the big issue -- we can't lose sight
of the big issue -- the overwhelming evidence is that 3,000
children begin to smoke every day, and that 1,000 of them will
have their lives shortened because of it, and that the rest of
us as taxpayers will pay enormously for them.
But the most important cost is human, not economic. And the
question is whether we can pursue a reasonable course to deal
with that and deal with the human reality of the livelihood and
the life and the structure of life that all these fine people
who have been talking around the table have described today.
I think the answer is yes. And as I said, I think,
ironically, trying to preserve the structure will actually,
since no one -- no one suggests that tobacco is not a legal crop
and that adults should not be free to buy it -- that that is not
a position advocated by anybody. Nobody's advocating prohibition
Ironically, it will -- it seems to me that our objectives in
reducing teen smoking by making it both more expensive and less
attractive in other ways, and dealing with the advertising, is
actually furthered by preserving this program because it will
reduce production and keep the price up.
If you abolish the program, you'll put a lot of these folks
out of business, but you will not reduce production. You'll
probably increase production, lower the price of tobacco and
therefore make cigarettes cheaper, notwithstanding whatever we
do with a tax or a voluntary payment or whatever we wind up
calling it when Congress acts.
So anyway, I thank you for that.
Secretary Glickman, would you like to say anything?
U.S. SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE DAN GLICKMAN: Well, Mr.
President, it's hard to be any more eloquent than the folks that
have been here. I had the privilege of being here last week.
Governor Patton says if I come one more time, I'll be subject to
Kentucky income tax.
But I appreciate the hospitality of the folks here.
I just came back from a week doing a farm tour around the
Fascinating. The only place in America where
there has not been a major diminution in the number of family
farmers is in tobacco country. The numbers in dairy, wheat,
corn, soy beans, rice, cotton, even live stock show over a
period of years a rapid reduction in numbers. A lot of it has
to do because individual farmers don't have the clout to bargain
or to negotiate with the people that they sell to like you have
here. So I clearly think that a good case is made for -- in
the context of the goal of reducing teen smoking, of maintaining
a program structure which allows that kind of arms-length
relationship to continue between the grower and the people that
they sell to.
And I also believe -- Karen was on our Small Farms
Commission. They have many, many good suggestions -- is that in
the context of Senator Ford's bill, I think that the great
burden flows upon USDA to work with communities, farmers and
people to try to develop alternatives in -- not so much -- I'm
not talking about cropping alternatives right now, but I'm
talking about economic development options, programs to help
people as we do our rural development programs all over the
country promoting rural cooperatives and doing the kinds of
things to deal with quality of life that may be affected by
this. But I think that can be done, and I look forward to
working with the folks here to see that it is done.
CLINTON: Let me just make one other request of all of you.
I will certainly try to do what you've asked me to do. That is,
I'm going to do my dead-level beset to get the legislation
passed this year that will not only dramatically reduce team
smoking but will provide some certain to you and some legitimate
protection for the tobacco farmers and the warehouses and their
So I will try to do that. But let me ask you to do
something. Because you've really piqued my interest here, both
what our pastor said and what Marisa (ph) said and what you said
Bill, what you said Mattie (ph) about parents' responsibility.
I have spent quite a bit of time with young people's groups --
you know, the youth organizations all over the country, from New
York City to small towns in California -- young people who are
organized, try to get their peers not to smoke and who also
often go from store to store to store to test whether the
sellers of cigarettes are actually even making modest efforts to
do anything about it.
And I respect that because, you know, I think it's wrong to
put all the responsibility here on the -- on the manufacturers.
It's not like these children and their parents and
their families and their schools and their churches are just
ciphers, you know, that have no will, have no knowledge, have no
nothing. I mean, they get up every day and go through life,
And I wish you would give some thought to -- as a practical
matter, Bill -- I don't know that the government could offer
every 18- year-old $1,000 on their 18th birthday if they can
prove they never smoked a cigarette. But there may be some
other things we can do in the area of, you know, getting young
people to assume more responsibility and providing some rewards
and doing some things that we haven't thought.
And Marisa (ph), the other thing -- we may not have been as
creative about that whole element of this as we can be. And I'd
be willing to think about that.
MARISA (PH): (OFF-MIKE)
CLINTON: Go ahead, Marisa (ph).
MARISA (PH): Well, there is a teacher who talked to me about
this, and he said maybe college scholarships for non-smokers --
maybe a non-smoking scholarship for students who happen to do
well in school and are non-smokers.
CLINTON: We'll look at that. We'll figure out what the
costs of that would be. You may be right. It may be cheaper
than some of the other stuff we're doing.
I'll do that. I'll look into that.
You were great, all of you. Thank you very much.
Let's give them a hand. Weren't they great?