The tobacco buyout is stalled in Congress over the issue of Food and Drug Administration regulation of cigarettes, but it isn't necessarily dead, says U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole's senior adviser.

“Plan A was to link the buyout to FDA regulation,” says David Rouzer, the Republican North Carolina senator's senior advisor. After the attempt to link the buyout with FDA regulation stalled, legislators took another route.

“Plan B is to move it forward in an omnibus budget bill,” Rouzer says. With the end of the session fast approaching, congressional leaders were working to make a buyout happen. “We're working full speed ahead and continuing to push forward on a buyout.”

Talks to link the buyout broke down over Republican and Democratic versions of the bill. “It's not impossible that FDA talks could revive,” Rouzer says.

Many saw FDA regulation as the vehicle that would carry the buyout through Congress. Philip Morris USA, the nation's largest cigarette manufacturer, supports FDA regulation. Many of the top tobacco companies in the U.S., however, do not support FDA regulation of cigarettes.

Growers see this year as the best time to pass a buyout. It's now or never, some say.

Pender Sharp, a flue-cured producer in Wilson County, N.C., says without the buyout this year, growers will likely see another huge cut in quota for the 2004 growing season.

He believes many in the industry can't take another huge hit.

e-mail: cyancy@primediabusiness.com