Checks for the final payment year of the Phase II Tobacco Trust Fund were mailed in mid-December to flue-cured and burley tobacco growers and quota holders.

“For the past six years, as our economy has transitioned, the Phase II payments have provided a boost for the agriculture industry and allowed many farmers to successfully diversify their farming operations,” said North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley on Dec. 15.

The payments were a part of a settlement reached by the attorneys general and governors of 14 tobacco producing states and four major tobacco manufacturers. The purpose of the Fund was to offset losses experienced by tobacco owners and quota owners as a result of reduced sales of cigarettes following the Phase I settlement.

“Since 1999, our farmers have used Phase II money to upgrade their operations and make them more efficient,” said North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “This money has not only helped farmers, it has also helped rural communities throughout North Carolina.”

The last payment was delayed because the tobacco manufacturers responsible for collecting and paying the funds contended in court that the passage of the tobacco program buyout in 2004 had relieved them of this responsibility. But a ruling in October 2005 struck down this claim and the payments were made.