Tobacco growers across the Southeast would get a significant reduction in risk if the U.S. Senate version of the farm bill is signed into law, according to North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan.

Senator Hagan secured major victories for North Carolina farmers in the 2013 farm bill, which passed the Senate with a strong bipartisan vote of 66 to 27.

Hagan led a bipartisan coalition of Southeast legislators in defeating an amendment that would have significantly harmed roughly 2,000 tobacco farmers in the region.

“Today the Senate came together — Democrats and Republicans — to give farmers in North Carolina and across the country the certainty they need to keep our agriculture economy growing,” Hagan says.  

“Agriculture is a bedrock industry in our state, employing hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, and my first priority has been ensuring this bill works for our farmers so they can plan for the future and continue to create jobs,” she adds. 

The Senate also unanimously approved Hagan’s amendment to strengthen crop insurance fraud prevention and preserve the federal program for honest hardworking farmers.

Passage of the farm bill by the Senate, especially the support for tobacco growers, comes as something of a surprise, based on recent sentencing of a number of North Carolina businessmen for crop insurance fraud.

Many of the dozens of defendants sentenced so far have received years in federal prison, agreeing to pay a total of $42 million in restitution and more than $900,000 in fines. That's still less than half what federal prosecutors say taxpayers have been bilked.