The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation has leveled criticism at pending legislation in the Canadian parliament that would ban all burley tobacco imports from the United States.
“No less than the future of the burley tobacco growing industry is at stake,” said VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor. “If other countries follow Canada’s lead, the market for American-style tobacco products will be non-existent outside the United States.”
The original intent of Canada Bill C-32 was to ban only small candy-flavored cigars. But it has been written so broadly as to apply to all cigarettes and will ban all flavorings used with Virginia-grown burley, effectively prohibiting the manufacture and sale of American blend cigarettes with Virginia-grown burley in Canada. American blend cigarettes contain burley tobacco and use certain ingredients to aid in the manufacturing process and to provide a distinctive taste. Unlike the products that are supposed to be targeted by the bill, American blend cigarettes do not have a fruity or sweet odor or flavor.
Dean Wallace, executive director of the Council for Burley Tobacco, recently wrote to Canada’s minister of international trade to express opposition to C-32. “C-32 would ban the vast majority of U.S. cigarette exports to Canada and prohibit Canadian companies from manufacturing American blend cigarettes. Additionally, it would deny tobacco farmers an opportunity to sell burley to any company for use in Canadian products,” Wallace said in his letter.
“This isn’t about tobacco control; this is about arbitrary discrimination against one type of tobacco versus another,” Pryor said. “There are certainly ways for the Canadian government to achieve their goal of banning fruit-flavored products aimed at kids without wiping out the market for American burley tobacco and threatening American jobs.”
About 900 Virginia farmers depend on the production of tobacco to support their farming operations and rural communities, Pryor said, and farm sales of tobacco in Virginia are expected to exceed $70 million this year. “This bill would have a devastating impact on Virginia agriculture … We are asking our elected officials in Washington to take notice of this pending action in Canada and do everything in their power to stop it.”