This morning the Cigar Rights of America (CRA), a cigar advocacy group, has put out a plea for Americans who enjoy cigars to support a federal bill to keep the federal government out of their business. H.R.792, the "Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2013" was introduced by Florida House Rep. Bill Posey and has 147 co-sponsors in the U.S. House as of this morning.
For more than a century, tobacco has been a staple crop in Connecticut, and some of the world's most cherished cigars depend upon the crops that descend from the Connecticut River Valley. The Tobacconist University curriculum notes, "Today, Connecticut Shade is one of the world's most prized and beautiful wrapper leaves. It has extraordinary strength, small veins, silky texture, and consistent light tan to brown color." Likewise, the popularity of Connecticut Broadleaf is being used for many popular maduro cigars, with a recent Cigar Aficionado video titled "Connecticut Broadleaf: America's Favorite Maduro."
However, the series of threats by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to regulate cigars brings into question the impact federal regulatory authority over premium cigars could have on a valley that spans both Connecticut and Massachusetts and happens to produce some of the world's most sought-after cigar leaf.
The impact of federal regulation of cigars could affect more than 350,000 jobs in Latin America. The nations of Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic are the global centerpieces of our ability to enjoy premium cigars. Lawmakers must learn about the supply chain that spans from the Port of Miami all the way to a cigar shop in Alaska-we show them how the community tobacconist dots Main Street America.
Now it's time to discuss the American farmer. We ask ourselves, how can any federal agency delve into writing such rules before knowing the full impact of any anticipated regulatory landscape?
To address this, Cigar Rights of America has been working with organizations that represent the northeastern United States agricultural economy. CRA has activated the Connecticut-Massachusetts Tobacco Growers Association in support of the battle to prevent federal regulation of premium cigars and has engaged the Connecticut Farm Bureau as partners in this process.
Recently, the CT-MA Tobacco Growers Association issued a letter to the Connecticut delegation in Congress requesting that their economic concerns for the working farms of the Connecticut River Valley be considered before the FDA can be allowed to issue regulations. William Leahey, President of the Tobacco Growers Association noted, "Many unknown rules that we hear are around the corner...make us wonder how our small businesses could survive [with] demand for our product [threatened]."
Likewise, the Connecticut Farm Bureau issued a letter to the House and Senate members from Connecticut, echoing the message of the Tobacco Grower's Association. Henry Talmage, Executive Director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau stated, "We now have multiple generations of family-owned cigar tobacco farms in the Connecticut River Valley. There are at least 100 family farms, and more than 5,000 seasonal workers." The peripheral economic impact includes farm machinery, fertilizer, supplies...the list goes on.
Last week, Connecticut cigar tobacco farmer Stephen Jarmoc and his son Owen, at the invitation of CRA, came to Washington, D.C. to tell their story. Mr. Jarmoc is an active member of the Connecticut-Massachusetts Tobacco Growers Association and the Connecticut Farm Bureau.
He and his son, who also works on the family farm, asked for the support of their member of Congress, and it worked. Connecticut member of the U.S. House of Representatives Joe Courtney signed on as a co-sponser to H.R. 792, which tells the FDA to stay out of the premium cigar business.