The opening day offerings on August 25 at the Old Belt Tobacco Sales warehouse in Rural Hall, N.C., were all dry weather lugs with no body, says warehouse owner Dennis White. "The five buyers we had didn't put any in number one grades," he says. "But I think we did as good as the receiving stations." The best tobacco brought $1.35 to $1.40, while fourth grade tobacco brought $1 to $1.10 and fifth grades 50 cents to 65 cents. "I was satisfied," he says. Very few bids were rejected, White says. White is optimistic about the next round of leaf. "We have had some rain in the Piedmont since the lugs went into the barn." He sold 160,000 pounds at the sale and expects to sell more at his second sale today.
Two sales a week in Wilson: Big M warehouse in Wilson, N.C., has started selling on Monday as well as Weednesday, says owner Mann Mullen. Sales have gone well so far. "We had fair prices, given the low demand for dry weather lugs of any types," he says. A few number ones and number twos sold well.
Several farmers have expressed concern to TFN that Swiss Organic Tobacco, the new company buying organic tobacco in the states, has not yet begun accepting deliveries of the tobacco it contracted with them. Son Butler, a spokesman for the company, told TFN that he is confident that the station will open no later than early next week (the week beginning with Labor Day) and perhaps earlier. He insisted that the relatively late opening will not prevent the full delivery of the company's purchase.
Less than half the Georgia crop has been marketed so far, and the best is still in the field, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. "We have sold part of the first harvest and a little of the second," he says. "There has been a quality problem in the lower stalk, and we have very seldom seen number one grades." But the price at receiving stations is creeping up to $2.05. "We could use some rain now to help ripen the crop."
Flue-cured is flourishing in the N.C. Piedmont. Grower Stanley Smith of King, N.C., says there were some rough moments earlier, especially four straight weeks with very little rain. "But now, the crop is good," he says. The quality will be above average, Smith thinks. "But we will have to see what the market is demanding. I have heard that the companies are grading awful strict."
The balance of burley supply and demand is better now thanks to the weather this season, says Will Snell, Kentucky Extension ag economist. "The 2015 U.S. burley crop was projected [in the recent USDA crop report] at 157.3 million pounds (-26 percent), with Kentucky's estimate forecast to total 117.8 million pounds (-28 percent). Beltwide, acres are down 18 percent, while the average U.S. burley yield is off 11 percent." This much smaller crop may be more in line with--or perhaps even below--anticipated U.S. burley needs in the current demand environment, he says.
In Tennessee, the rain started up again in August and interfered with harvest on the burley farm of Tony Hutson of Bell Buckle, 50 miles south of Nashville. "I have been spearing and hanging this week," he said on August 20. "But I couldn't wilt it because of the rain. I had to hang it green to keep the mud off." Marketing is uncertain because he didn't contract this year. "I have been selling my tobacco at the [Farmers Warehouse] auction in Danville, Ky." It has worked out reasonably well. "I sold last year at the third-from-last sale. I averaged $1.80 a pound," he said.
Dark fire-cured harvest is progressing well in Appomattox County, Va., says Bruce Jones, Extension tobacco agent. But there are still some dry sections in the county that need rain. "Most areas received a little rainfall [recently] but it was very spotty," Jones says. "Some areas only received a few tenths of an inch."
I met Robert Shipley of Vilas, N.C., in the Eighties when he came to Raleigh to
Chris Bickers / 903-9 Shellbrook Ct. / Raleigh NC 27609 / 919 789 4631 / firstname.lastname@example.org
How burley bloomed in the Blue Ridge
For an easy-to-read account of how burley came to east Tennessee and western North Carolina in the late 1800s, along with oral history interviews with some of the best of the older generation burley farmers, and much more, order The History of Burley Tobacco in East Tennessee & Western North Carolina by Billy Yeargin and Christopher Bickers. Send a check for $25 to Chris Bickers, 903-9 Shellbrook Ct., Raleigh, N.C. 27609. Questions? You can contact Bickers via email at chrisbickers@ gmail.com or by phone at 919 789 4631.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Monday, August 3, 2015
Thursday, July 16, 2015
The N.C. Tobacco Tour begins at 3 p.m., Monday, July 20, with a curing demonstration in Wendell. It will continue on July 21 with tours of research at the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station near Rocky Mount (including black shank plots like those shown above in 2014) and at the Oxford Tobacco Research Station. See below for details on the N.C. Tour and also the Virginia Tobacco Research Field Day at the Southern Piedmont station, Blackstone, Va., on July 29.
Kentucky--Heavy rains that were scattered over much of the state have damaged the Kentucky burley crop by "a double digit percentage," says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. The rain fell almost daily in much of the state--one Extension tobacco agent reported that from July 1, rain had fallen 14 out of 15 days. "Some of the crop may recover if the weather improves, but as a whole, it is not likely to regain its full potential." But Pearce cautions against trying to salvage the crop by putting out a lot of fertilizer. "That will rarely solve the problem," he says. "But a light application of fertilizer at a rate of 25 pounds per acre of nitrogen might be appropriate." If leafspot diseases appear, Pearce recommends an application of Quadris at eight ounces per acre.
Tennessee--A report from the Extension Service in Smith County, near Nashville, says tobacco was hurt in some places from too much water as of July 12. "Producers were back in the fields toward the end of the week after being unable to do much due to rain the previous two weeks," says Chris Hicks, county tobacco agent.
North Carolina: In the East, the flue-cured crop is about two weeks behind schedule, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. Farmers are just now getting into harvest, whereas in a normal year they might have reached this point at the beginning of July. Much remains to be topped. Farmers are trying to be as timely as possible with sucker control applications. In the Piedmont, just a little harvesting is taking place, mainly in transition counties like Granville. It has been very dry, but this week there has been a little rain in Person, Alamance and Orange Counties. Harvest probably will last till close to the first frost...In Cleveland County in the foot hills of the Blue Ridge, tobacco is being topped and growth is good, says Stephen Bishop of the Cleveland County NRCS office. "Growers in the southern part of the county had been irrigating crops for over two weeks until they received rainfall (last) week," he says...In Surry County, it's reported that the crop looks good after an 0.6 inch of rain Tuesday morning. Topping is going full steam, and harvesting could begin within a week.
South Carolina--About 42 percent of the crop had been topped by July 12, according to USDA NASS. That was about half the five-year average for that date.
Virginia--In Lunenburg County, tobacco is growing like weeds, says Lindy Tucker, Extension tobacco agent. "We got a little rain this week and had several overcast days. We could probably use a little more, but we are thankful for that."
Florida--A farmer in Alachua County said in a newspaper interview recently that organic tobacco has attracted a much higher price than conventional on his farm. Trevor Bass of Newberry, Fl., said he is able to sell his organic flue-cured tobacco for about twice the amount of his regular leaf--as high as $4.15 per pound forthe highest quality organic compared to $2.22 for conventional. Bass told the Gainesville (Fl.) Sun that organic cigarettes have a more natural flavor, and they burn twice as long as regular cigarettes. "It's no more or less healthy, but the word sells," Bass said.
Kentucky-Tennessee--The Black Patch experienced excess rain in the two weeks ending around July 10, but it has since turned dry and there is considerable heat and humidity. "We have seen saturated soils, wet feet and some drowning," Andy Bailey, K-T Extension dark tobacco specialist. "We may have suffered as much as a 10 percent loss in production so far, but some of it could be recovered." On the other hand, crops on better drained soils that didn't get too much rain look good now, Bailey says. There could be another problem: Heavy winds caused damage in some areas. "That left stalks crooked which may make it difficult to use rundown application of sucker control chemicals," he says. "We might wind up using more MH than normal. Some farmers might try to apply conventional chemicals with a backpack but that is very labor intensive."
In other tobacco news:
A good early report on Presidio? A Piedmont N.C. reader obtained what he considers almost unbelievable results early in the season controlling black shank on his flue-cured using the newly labeled fungicide Presidio. In fact, it was so unbelievable that he wants to remain anonymous until the end of the season when he can be sure the results are credible. But he shared some details now: "We used the full rate of Presidio for black shank. We applied Presidio in the setter water and at the last cultivation and applied UltraFlourish at first cultivation, and it helped us get the best control we have had of black shank in four years." Normally, by mid July he would expect to see black shank "holes." "But there are not many at all this year," he says.
It is time to face the writing on the wall
By Rod Kuegel, President of the Council for Burley Tobacco
The demand for burley tobacco is in terminal decline worldwide. The industry has seen years of underproduction following the buyout. All that is changing, and we are reaching a level of oversupply that cannot be corrected. What does all this mean to you as a burley tobacco farmer? It means that there is no longer a guaranteed market for non-contracted tobacco. It means that you need to identify your market before planting the crop. It means that as growers we all need to work together to look at the future of our industry, to stop the overproduction of burley tobacco, and identify secure new markets for our product. We are unable to reverse the decline of the tobacco industry, but we can look at ways we can identify market opportunities. One of the first steps to curb overproduction is to work with the government to prevent insurance coverage on non-contract tobacco. This would help to address concerns of insurance fraud in the industry, as well as provide an incentive to farmers to identify secure markets before planting. We should also look at ways to differentiate our product to the consumer. One approach would be to encourage companies to provide source verification on each pack of cigarettes. It would give consumers a chance to identify where the tobacco was grown, verify that it was GAP-certified and document that it meets all child-labor laws and pesticide guidelines. We can no longer take the position "if I grow it there will be a market." We have to recognize that the market is changing. The demand for burley is not going to come around as it has in the past, and we must change our production practices. We have to step outside of our comfort zone and work with policy leaders, health advocates, and industry leaders to identify what the future will be for the burley tobacco farmer. (Editor's note: Rod Kuegel is a burley and dark tobacco grower in Owensboro, Ky. This editorial is a condensed version of a piece that appeared earlier on the council's webpage. To see the whole piece, go to www.councilforburleytobacco.com and click on News.)
HOW BURLEY GOT STARTED IN THE BLUE RIDGE
Before burley arrived, most people in the Carolina mountains were employed in what you would call subsistence farming, says Robert Shipley of Watauga County, N.C., a farmer who was born in 1912 and remembers the early era better than almost anybody still living. "They were self sufficient in food and produced pretty much what they ate. They killed hogs for their meat supply and would sometime kill cattle for beef. Everybody had a garden, and it was standard practice to preserve and can produce. So our folks didn't go hungry: They just weren't used to having a lot of money."
That changed after farmers learned about the potential of burley. It soon proved to be the only realistic choice as a cash crop, says Shipley. "We didn't have any other dependable cash crop in this area. That was the big reason that burley spread in the mountains."
But adoption wasn't immediate, Shipley remembers. It didn't really get going until a federal program was developed to stabilize production and marketing. "It led to an increase in price, so that farmers who grew it had some money left over after paying their expenses of growing tobacco. It was a good change, definitely. From that time, tobacco paid taxes and supported the schools and churches of this land." --Excerpted and slightly edited from The History of Burley Tobacco in East Tennessee & Western North Carolina. Note: If you would like to buy a copy of the book, make out a check to Chris Bickers for $25 and address it to Chris Bickers, 903-9 Shellbrook Ct., Raleigh NC 27609. Questions? Contact me by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 919-789 4631.
DATES TO REMEMBER
- July 20-21. N.C. Tobacco Tour. Begins at 3 p.m., July 20, Edwards Farm, 200 Salem Church Rd., Wendell, N.C., followed by a Welcome Dinner. The tour will begin on the morning of July 21 with a tour of research at the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station near Rocky Mount followed by a tour of research at theOxford Tobacco Research Station. Contact: Mina Mila at 919-513-1291 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- July 29. Annual Tobacco Research Field Day. Southern Piedmont AREC, Blackstone, Va. Registration begins at 5 p.m., followed by dinner. Tour will begin at 6 p.m. Contact: Margaret Kenny at 434-292-5331 or email@example.com.
- July 30. Kentucky Corn-Soybean-Tobacco Field Day, UK Research & Education Center, Princeton Ky. Contact: Andy Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 270-365-7541.
- August 3-4. Burley Tobacco Industry Tour, Lexington, Ky. On August 3, beginning at 1 p.m., participants will tour research at the Spindletop Research Farm, 3250 Ironworks Pike. There will be a sponsored dinner. On August 4, participants will tour are farms and see research at the Woodford County Farm, ending with lunch at the Woodford County Farm. Contact: Bob Pearce at 859 221 2465 or email@example.com.