State will use tobacco settlement funds to support farmland preservation

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 3:38pm
Staff Reports

Gov. Phil Bredesen and state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens on Wednesday announced the donation of more than $165,700 in private tobacco settlement funds to The Land Trust for Tennessee to support farmland preservation.

“Farmland preservation is more than just preserving our rich agricultural legacy and the land. It’s about achieving balance in our land-use planning and supporting a major component of our rural economy,” Bredesen said during a press conference at Elmington Agricultural Center. “I’m pleased that through this donation that we will be able to support private/public partnerships with The Land Trust to preserve working farms in Tennessee.”

The donation represents undesignated funds from the National Tobacco Growers Settlement Trust. The tobacco settlement trust was created in 1998 and approved by attorneys general from tobacco producing states.

The trust was funded by major tobacco manufacturers to help offset losses to farmers as a result of the Master Settlement Agreement.

“Over our 10 year history, we have been privileged to work with many Tennessee farmers, including the 60 families that have chosen to conserve their working farms in perpetuity,” said Jean Nelson, president and executive director of The Land Trust for Tennessee. “This fund will give us the opportunity to help many more. We appreciate the Tennessee Tobacco Farmers Certifying Board and the confidence they have placed in us to provide this assistance to Tennessee farmers.”

The donation was approved by the Tennessee Tobacco Farmers Certifying Board, which was created to oversee the distribution of tobacco settlement trust funds to Tennessee tobacco farm families. Approximately 50,000 Tennessee tobacco farm families shared in more than $170 million from the trust over a six-year period.

The board made the donation in closing out Tennessee’s tobacco trust account. Funding for the program ceased following the 2004 congressional buyout of the federal tobacco quota system.

“The tobacco settlement trust served its purpose by helping thousands of Tennessee tobacco farm families transition through some turbulent years in the industry,” said Givens, who serves as vice chairman of the certifying board. “I can’t think of a more fitting way to bring this program to a close than by helping farm families build a legacy through farm preservation.”

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture currently partners with The Land Trust to conserve farmlands by providing funds that help defray some of the legal and other costs that farmers may incur while permanently protecting their land. Through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program, The Land Trust has been successful in preserving over 30 farms totaling 9,000 acres since early 2007. The Land Trust will use this donation to expand its partnership with the state to protect critical farmlands throughout Tennessee.

For more information and resources on farmland preservation in Tennessee, click here.


4 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 5/13/09 at 3:02

I'm sure the farmers of this state would rather have had some research and help
in growing some replacement crops, but this "Land Trust " arrangement has long been the governor"s favorite cause. Hopefully he won't do as the Sundquist's and place his wife's name on interstate signs for all these tracts.

By: pandabear on 5/14/09 at 6:47

That money is suppose to go for health problems related to smoking
and to help people to stop smoking.

It's not a personal, private fund for Gov. Dickhead to spend like he wants.

"bunker bunker"

By: JeffF on 5/14/09 at 7:37

I was thinking the same thing. The Land Trust is his pet project and I completely disagree with the gifting of money to a private organization. Local governments suffer when property tax rolls are forever reduced by Land Trust actions or when the state or feds purchase large tracts of land for "parks". The poorest counties with the worst schools are those with more than half the land being off the tax rolls. This money should have gone to them long before it went to the Land Trust crooks.

By: millenboy on 5/14/09 at 12:33

National Tobacco Growers Settlement Trust and Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) are two separate funds. Se the information below. I agree that Bredesen in not using the NTGST money for its intended purpose.

National Tobacco Growers Settlement Trust History
The National Tobacco Growers Settlement Trust (the Trust) was established by Phillip Morris, Inc., Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation, Lorillard Tobacco Company and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company to compensate tobacco quota owners and growers for potential reductions in their tobacco production and sales. These reductions are expected to result from the Master Settlement Agreement (523 KB ), a $206 billion court settlement between the major cigarette manufacturers and 46 state attorneys general. This settlement compensates state governments for the expenses incurred in the treatment of tobacco-related illness through government-sponsored health insurance programs like Medicaid. In order to finance this settlement, the major cigarette manufacturers have implemented steep price increases. They expect these increases to lower demand for their products and consequently to lower demand for American-grown tobacco. In an effort to lessen the economic impact of the Master Settlement Agreement on tobacco quota owners and growers, the cigarette manufacturers agreed to establish the Trust.

This $5.15 billion trust fund was negotiated by the four cigarette companies and the political leadership of tobacco growing states. Governor Paul Patton helped lead tobacco state governors in their negotiations, and played a critical role in the establishment of the trust. When one cigarette company began to back away from negotiations and threaten establishment of the Trust, Governor Patton and other governors demanded to speak with the Chief Executive Officer of this company's parent corporation. The resulting conversation put the negotiations back on track, and the Trust was established shortly thereafter. The participating companies will make annual payments to the Trust beginning in 1999 and concluding in 2010.