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article imageCanada: Farmers Offered $300 Million to Stop Growing Tobacco

By Bob Ewing     Aug 1, 2008 in Politics
The Canadian federal government will pay farmers in excess of $300 million to stop growing tobacco, say two cabinet ministers.
Immigration and Citizenship Minister Diane Finley, who represents the tobacco-rich Ontario riding of Haldimand-Norfolk, says the money that Ottawa is offering farmers is a federal strategy to help farmers find new crops and get out of the tobacco industry altogether.
"Tobacco producers and their families will be able to bring closure to what has been a very stressful time," Finley said in a statement.
"This program is available to help producers exit the industry, transition to other crops or find new opportunities outside agriculture."
Delhi, Ont. where the announcement was made, is, a farming town in the heart of Ontario's so-called tobacco belt — a fertile band of farmland dotted by fields of squat green tobacco plants and the drying sheds used to dry and cure the leaves.
Not everyone was pleased by the news even though there are long-standing demands by area farmers for upwards of $1 billion to help get them out of the tobacco business.
"The unique challenges tobacco farmers are facing have never come with easy solutions," Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz acknowledged.
"As you know, farming is a business, but it's also a proud way of life that goes back generations.... These funds will help those who wish to continue to produce to do so under a new provincial licensing system."
The money is coming from the fine of more than $1 billion levied by an Ontario judge Thursday against two of Canada's largest tobacco companies.
The Tobacco Transition Program will provide about $286 million plus $15 million for community development initiatives "to help communities transition to a non-tobacco-based economy.
The money comes with "no strings attached."
Imperial Tobacco and Rothmans Benson & Hedges were the companies that were fined which was the largest of its kind in Canadian history . after the companies pleaded guilty to charges related to cross-border cigarette smuggling in the 1990s.
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