11:07am

Tue February 7, 2012
State Capitol

Foreign Trade Deal Threatens Tobacco Exports

Kentucky lawmakers are protesting a current trade agreement that they say would hurt tobacco. The U.S. is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which includes countries like New Zealand, Peru and Vietnam. But the lawmakers say the proposal excludes tobacco protections. At a news conference in Frankfort today, Democratic and Republican lawmakers urged President Barack Obama to add provisions for tobacco to the agreement.

Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says including the crop will help Kentucky farmers.

“What we have to be able to do with tobacco is the same thing we’re doing with corn and beef cattle and horses in Kentucky," Comer says. "We have to grow our export market. In order to do that we have to make sure tobacco is treated fairly along with every other crop in the United States in trade agreements."

A letter supporting the inclusion of tobacco has been signed by all eight members of Kentucky’s federal delegation.  Australians worry such a trade agreement would restrict health limits they’ve imposed on cigarettes. 

State Representative Wilson Stone has sponsored a resolution defending tobacco. He says the crop should be treated as an asset in negotiations over the trade agreement.

“And certainly as we negotiate with other countries about all crops we want tobacco to be at the table," Stone says. "And we really think that tobacco’s an asset to our negotiators as we try to help put quality tobacco to manufacturers across the world.”

The resolution has bipartisan support. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has endorsed it as well. It's expected to pass both chambers by the end of this week.