February 16, 2010
One year after providing Ontario tobacco farmers with $300 million to “help them exit the tobacco industry,” the federal department of Agriculture and Agri-Food provided them with interest-free loans to keep on farming tobacco.
“The federal Tobacco Transition Program was so riddled with loopholes that, by our estimate, at least one in ten tobacco farmers were able to collect a buyout but keep on farming, and the amount of tobacco grown in Ontario has not fallen,” said Neil Collishaw, Research Director for Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. “Shockingly, the federal government also offered interest-free loans to tobacco farmers in 2009, after the exit program was completed and all but 18 former quota holders had taken the buy-out.”
On August 1, 2008, federal Agriculture Minister, Gerry Ritz announced an exit package of $1.05 per pound of tobacco quota for Ontario’s 1,083 tobacco quota holders, paving the way for the dissolution of the supply management of tobacco farming. Despite the large investment in the tobacco exit program, tobacco farmers were invited in the fall of 2009 to apply for loans under the federally-funded Advance Payments Program.
“We have been contacted by Southwestern Ontario residents who are outraged at the abuses they are witnessing to the implementation of the tobacco exit strategy,” said Neil Collishaw. “We are told that licences have been issued to non-farmers, sometimes living in distant communities, who provide legal cover to tobacco farmers who have been paid to stop growing tobacco, but are nonetheless continuing to farm tobacco in the same quantities and on the same land.” In 2008, before the buyout, 22 million pounds of tobacco was grown in Ontario. In 2009, after the buyout, exactly the same amount was grown as in 2008.
And the problem is not going away. Currently, tobacco farmers are applying for their 2010 licences to grow tobacco. The deadline for filing for a licence is February 26, 2010. Early indications are that there will be more licences granted and more tobacco grown in 2010 than in 2009, unless these abuses are stopped. PSC has written the federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Hon. Gerry Ritz, to request an end to federal subsidies for tobacco growing.
“Agriculture Canada is undermining Canada’s commitments under the global tobacco treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” explained Mr. Collishaw. “This treaty calls on countries to provide ‘economically viable alternatives’ to tobacco growing. It does not call for greater government subsidy of tobacco growing. ”
For further information:
Collishaw: office: 1 613 233 4878