Many tobacco farmers in South Central Kentucky are hanging their hat on a potential federal tobacco buyout, but haven't heard an update on the proposed new bill in a while.
Wednesday on a farm in Hart County, Sen. Mitch McConnell attempted to fill that information gap with an update.
"I'm more optimistic than ever that we'll be able to get this accomplished, and I think we'll know one way or the other by the end of 2004." McConnell says.
The tobacco buyout would pay tobacco farmers out of money from the tobacco settlement in a price-per-pound system, in exchange for ending the current quota payment system.
McConnell says he believes the buyout program could encourage older farmers to get out of the business, and push younger farmers to expand their acreage. "The sad thing is we won't have as many people involved in tobacco farming as we used to, but hopefully it'll still be an important part of KY's agricultural scene," McConnell says.
The House and Senate passed different versions of the buyout bill, so the issue will now head to a conference committee. McConnell and Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) are both on the committee.
President Bush has indicated he will sign a finalized bill, which means farmers could have checks in hand by early 2005.