An organization called "Tobacco Farmers in Crisis" staged a protest in Delhi, Ontario on February 26. The President of this organization is Brian Edwards, who gave up on growing tobacco three years ago.

The protesters were asking for a government handout, but this time, there's a twist. They weren't asking for crop subsidies, price supports, marketing help, or restrictions on imports. Instead, they want the Federal government to put in a slight increase in the Federal tax on cigarettes, and use the revenue to finance the conversion of tobacco farms to other crops. What they are advocating is similar to a program adopted in the U.S. three years ago.

This offer of surrender terms was prompted by the reality that the quotas mandated by the marketing board for tobacco are only 20% of what they were ten years ago, and these quotas might be even lower this year. This doesn't, of course, mean that the sale of cigarettes in Canada has dropped by 80%. It means that the three principal distributors of cigarettes in Canada (this is worded to include BAT [as in Players and du Maurier], which has its corporate offices in London, UK, and now manufactures cigarettes for the Canadian market in Mexico) are purchasing most of their raw tobacco from third-world countries, primarily Brazil.

Now, we could be uncharitable and point out that these same people were complaining ten years ago that cigarette taxes were too high, and that five years ago, they were asking the government for marketing help. That would be a bad idea. The current Conservative government could, for idealogical reasons, respond by abolishing the marketing board. This would bankrupt most tobacco growers, but it would keep a few big ones in business, and they would still have some clout in Ottawa.

The "exit strategy" advocated by Tobacco Farmers in Crisis would be better for just about everyone. Airspace wants the tobacco industry removed from this planet, and this would be a step in that direction. The distributors of cigarettes in Canada would no longer be able to hold these tobacco growers hostage, and the absence of any Canadian content in their product will make these corporations even more unpopular.

Tobacco Farmers in Crisis deserves some credit for being realistic about the tobacco industry's future. Their activities have gotten little attention from the mainstream media. What they are doing deserves to be taken seriously.

Tobacco Famers in Crisis site