Thursday, October 9, 2014

WILL ENOUGH FLUE-CURED BE TOO MUCH?

Harvesting flue-cured
Workers gather leaf in a flue-cured field on Marty Adams' farm east of Raleigh. Adams hoped to wrap up this long harvest season by October 15.

The size of the flue-cured crop in eastern North Carolina will apparently remain a mystery right up until end of harvest. In recent weeks, there continued to be reports of weather-related losses:
  • Marty Adams and his son M.J. grow flue-cured in the Knightdale area just east of Raleigh. At mid season, they had what was clearly their best crop ever. But the rain turned it yellow and washed out much of the weight. Harvest was considerably delayed; Marty expects to finish around the 15th, which is about when he starts looking for first frost. And the ground stayed so wet that he had to park his mechanical harvester and finish the crop by hand.
  • Kevin Gardner of Macclesfield, N.C., said his family had finished harvest on his farm around October 1. It was a big crop in the field, but the rain washed it out and it didn't weigh good. "I think our yield will be about average," says Gardner.
  • Harvest ended in mid September for Johnny McLawhorn of Hookerton, N.C. "It was just a fair crop [thanks to the rain]," he says. "We produced about 85 percent of what we expected."
Even if eastern N.C. doesn't produce an enormous crop, my sources say there is already more flue-cured out there than the market wants. The Old Belt seems headed for a big crop too, but it is even later than the Eastern Belt, and much of the latest leaf may have to be abandoned. So how much flue-cured will be produced? The leaf man I respect most in this business told me off the record last Friday that he thinks now that flue-cured production of 525 million pounds is probably a reasonable projection. On the demand side, he thinks that 490 million pounds will be as much as contracting manufacturers will take. "The remaining 35 million or so pounds will probably be taken to auctions," he says. Long Eagle Barn

Sales will continue at least through November 15 at the Big M auction warehouse in Wilson, N.C, says owner Mann Mullen. In recent sales, lugs at his auctions have been bringing in the $1 to $1.10 a pound range, cutters $1.40 to $1.50 a pound and leaf $1.70 to $1.80 a pound. "Most have been satisfied with what they are getting," Mullen says.




Auctions in the Old Belt will likely continue at Rural  Hall, N.C., till the end of November, if not later, says Old Belt Ware-house owner Dennis White. Prices have improved substantially since the opening sale. "We sold 425,000 pounds last Tuesday at an average of about $1.32 a pound," says White. "Far fewer bids were rejected than at our opening sale." Very little leaf grade tobacco has been brought to the warehouse yet. What has come in sold in the $1.80 a pound range. Cutters have brought $1.60.

Not halfway through the auction season? "I don't think we are a third done," White says. "A lot of the Piedmont crop has still been pulled just once. It is big tobacco and just now starting to 'break.' If the frost holds off, it will be a very big crop."

A full-scale burley auction in the Old Belt: White says he has gotten many calls from burley growers seeking an auction. "If the interest stands up, I plan to start selling burley the third or fourth week of October," he says. "I will do it on the same days that I sell flue-cured." But not at the same time. He will sell the flue-cured, then sell the burley, he says. 

Editor's note: As you probably noticed, I managed to commit not one but two typographical errors in one sentence in my September II issue, which had the effect of making my source seem uncharacteristically indecisive. Here is how it should have read--"A lot of flue-cured is deteriorating on the stalk in Eastern N.C., says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist, who continues to think that the barn-busting crop predicted six weeks ago is unlikely to occur."

Burley cut and curing: Tim Ware of Belwood, N.C., had cut all his burley around September 1. It is curing now and looks like a better crop than last year, he says. Ware farms near the point where the N.C. mountains end and the N.C. Piedmont begins, and he didn't get excess rain at any time during the growing season. In fact, he had a dry spell after he planted in mid May and is glad now he irrigated twice in that period. "I think the irrigation really helped get it over the hump." Ware got into burley after deregulation. He cures in outdoor curing structures even though he has some barn space that he could use. "I find it more labor efficient to use the outdoor structures," he says.

Harvest nearly over in Tennessee: At least 80 percent and probably more than 90 percent of the burley crop has been cut in Tennessee, says Extension specialist Eric Walker. "It might have been farther along except for some labor problems we had, especially in the eastern part of the state." Once the season passed the mid point, there weren't many problems. He doesn't have a production estimate yet but the state yield should be at least average.

Grower associations disavow child labor: Two organizations of tobacco farmers have recently taken a stand against the hiring of non-family youngsters to work tobacco, which has become quite a controversial issue of late. But it is a non-issue to most flue-cured growers today, said Tim Yarbrough, farmer president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina (TGANC). "The modern tobacco operations in our state today find it difficult to rely on such labor anyway. The use of more mechanization and extended growing season means there is increasingly less for kids to do like there was 25 years ago." Resolutions of TGANC and the Council for Burley Tobacco follow (excerpted).

What the North Carolinians resolved: While we do not believe that tobacco fields are inherently unsafe for qualified persons who receive proper training and personal protective equipment, we recognize that there are particular risks associated with working in tobacco. Accordingly, the TGANC adopts the following policy:
  • TGANC does not condone the use of child labor.
  • Tobacco growers and farm labor contractors should not employ workers younger than 16 years of age for work in tobacco, even with parental permission and including instances where the parent's request the work for them.
  • Tobacco growers and farm labor contractors should be cautious about employing 16- and 17-year-old workers in tobacco even though the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act allows it. If growers elect to employ 16- and 17-year-olds, it is encouraged that the employee provide express written parental permission. The farmer must provide appropriate safety training and personal protective equipment to perform only non-hazardous tasks.
  • Children of the family farm represent a unique circumstance in regards to child labor. Their engagement or related activities in a family farming perspective is a lifestyle for them as opposed to a vocation. Passing down strong agricultural values to the next generation is a key to ensuring productive and successful farms for the future. Therefore, this policy does not apply to members of a grower's family who work or otherwise perform various tasks on their farms because of direct and specific parental supervision.
What the Council for Burley Tobacco resolved:
  • We do not condone the hiring of anyone under the age of 16 for work in tobacco anywhere in the world. 
  • Burley farmers in the United States understand the dangers burley production jobs pose to children and [believe] the incidence of children working in tobacco production is low in this country."

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BIG M TOBACCO WAREHOUSE 
1723 Goldsboro St. SW, Wilson, N.C., 
in the old Liberty Warehouse
Greg Goins is the auctioneer at Big M Warehouse.
We will hold both sealed bid auctions
and live auctions. 
We promise 
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For more information, contact Mann Mullen at 919-496-9033 
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Saturday, September 20, 2014

PROSPECTS DIMINISH FOR A PRICE-DEPRESSING SURPLUS

Harvest
Workers gather leaf from a flue-cured field near Winston-Salem, N.C.
FLUE-CURED

A lot of flue-cured is deteriorating on the stalk in Eastern North Carolina, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist, who continues to think that the barn-busting crop predicted six weeks ago is unlikely to occur. "Some tobacco-growing areas in the East have gotten as much rain as last year at this time," he says. "It was hot one week this month and rainy the next, and now the crop is going back fast." Some growers are finishing harvest now. "Farmers are really putting the accelerator down, with emphasis on quality. I am seeing some pale color. I wouldn't expect much green leaf that won't cure, at least not in the East."

In the N.C. Piedmont, the situation is the exact opposite, says Vann. "There was a prolonged dry period and late-season uptake fertilizer. Now, growers are going to hard pressed to complete harvest before first frost." Tim Yarbrough, a farmer in Prospect Hill, N.C. (near Roxboro), says, "It will be very hard to get the last of this crop harvested and cured. It is not just the shortage of barns. Farmers will have a hard time getting into the field with enough machinery and labor to get the job done. There are just so many hours in the day." 

In Virginia, Halifax County Extension agent Chris Brown says the flue-cured there is definitely late. "It is hard to put a finger on how much has been harvested, but it seems likely at this point that frost will nip some of what is left. If we have an early frost, we could have a big problem. Some farmers are not half way up the stalk yet." So far, the quality appears decent. Some stalk-cut tobacco is grown in Halifax County, he says, and most had been cut by mid-September. "Both the burley (45 acres) and dark fire cured (15 acres) look good," he says. "In fact, the dark looks real good."

BURLEY

In Kentucky, harvest was perhaps 60 percent done by the middle of this week. "We are way behind," says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "We have had a problem with rain--it stays so wet that you can't do anything. There has been some hollow stalk rot and some leaf drop, and some farmers may not have all their tobacco cut before first frost." Labor has been an issue for some growers, he says. On the bright side, Pearce is optimistic about the quality.

In western N.C., dry weather has contributed to a relatively late burley crop. A shortage of labor has further delayed harvest. One farmer near Asheville had a field that was ready to cut before his labor crew arrived. So he used a tractor-mounted sickle mower to cut down the stalks two rows at a time. It took some experimentation to find the right speed, but the farmer says the results were good and cutting one acre took less than an hour. "There was some damage, but there would have been more if I'd let it go any longer." Still, he hopes the rest of his fields will hold till his crew arrives so he can cut conventionally.

How to save labor in burley harvest: At the Upper Piedmont Research Station at Reidsville, N.C., researchers use a Weedeater with a blade to cut the stalk as they walk backward down the row. "You can cut burley much faster with the Weedeater than with a tobacco knife, and you don't have to bend over to do it," says Joe French, superintendent at the station. "Breakage might be a concern, since the stalk falls straight down. But we haven't had enough breakage yet for it to be a problem." Besides the Weedeater, the station staff has increased its labor savings by notching the stalk and hanging it from wire rather than spearing it on sticks. For more information about this approach, you can call the station at 336 349 8347.

USDA September estimate of production
With percentage comparison to 2013

Flue-cured: US--537.8 million lbs, up 18%. Individual states: NC--416.3 million lbs, up 15%; Virginia--55 million lbs, up 16%; Georgia--35 million lbs, up 56%; SC--31.5 million lbs, up 28%. Burley: US--211.7 million lbs, up 10%. Individual states:Kentucky--160.6 million lbs, up 8%; Tennessee--25.2 million lbs, up 24%; Pennsylvania--12.7 million lbs, up 4%; Virginia--5.3 million lbs, up 17%; Ohio--4.4 million lbs, down 4%; NC--3.4 million lbs, up 30%. Other types: Fire-cured: 50.5 million lbs, no change. Dark fire-cured: 14.9 million lbs, up 6%. Cigar types: 9.5 million lbs, up 34%. Southern Maryland: 4.6 million lbs, up 2%
__________________________________________________
 

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BIG M TOBACCO WAREHOUSE 

1723 Goldsboro St. SW, Wilson, N.C., 
in the old Liberty Warehouse
Greg Goins is the auctioneer at Big M Warehouse.
We will hold both sealed bid auctions

and live auctions. 
We promise 
HONEST AND TRUSTWORTHY 

SERVICE
We will be GAP certified 

For more information, contact Mann Mullen at 919-496-9033 
or the warehouse switchboard at 252-206-1447.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

EARLY AUCTION SALES DISAPPOINT FLUE GROWERS

All eyes were on the flue-cured auctions when they began in late August. At this live auction at the Old Belt Warehouse in Rural Hall, N.C., on August 26, leaf sold for an average of $1.10 per pound.


Prices were low at the first auction of the season at Old Belt Tobacco Sales at Rural Hall, N.C., on August 26. About 125,000 pounds (out of 200,000 offered) sold in the range of $1.10 per pound, with a practical top of $1.50. This was way below the average of 2013, and there was considerable tag tearing. The next sale at Old Belt (phone 336 416 6262) will take place 10 a.m. on September 9. Big M Warehouse of Wilson, N.C., (phone 919 496 9033) will hold a sealed bid auction Wednesday, September 3, at 10 a.m. Carolinas Tobacco Auctions of Lake City, S.C., (phone 843 687 5753) and Piedmont Warehouse, Danville, Va., (phone 434 203 1404) may be holding auctions soon also. Call for details.

 
Late-season rain lowers eastern North Carolina flue-cured prospects? Industry projections of production has declined steadily since a month ago. One of the more conservative estimates comes from Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist, who tells Tobacco Farmer Newsletter he now thinks N.C. may produce 400 million pounds of flue-cured and the flue-cured belt as a whole might produce 500 million pounds or a little more. Vann's estimate is the lowest I've heard from my regular sources, but all are lower than they were a month ago...Why the reduced expectations? Heavy rain in Eastern N.C. "We probably lost 25 to 30 percent of our crop because of excessive water the last three weeks," said grower Allen Wooten of Pender County, N.C. His farm near Wilmington is quite close to the coast. In Pitt County, N.C., a little farther inland, excessive rainfall has reduced yield expectations from 2,400 pounds per acre to around 2,000 pounds (see TFN, August II issue). "Some areas of the Coastal Plain have had as much rain as last year," says Vann.

Glden Eagle II
Running out of frost-free days? Eastern Belt farmers are facing the very real prospect of not finishing harvest before first frost. In Newton Grove in eastern N.C., Phil Hudson says the crop in his areas is running 10 to 14 days late. "It's Labor Day already and we have just started the second harvest in north Sampson County!" he says. In cen-tral N.C., Don Nicholson, N.C. Department of Agri-culture agronomist who works in Harnett, John-ston, Wake, Wayne and Wilson Counties, says, "The tobacco crop in some parts of the region looks very good in both yield and quality. However, some areas have had too much rain and the crop is fading quickly, putting a lot of pressure on curing space."

 
Some not yet primed in Old Belt: In the Winston-Salem, N.C., area, Vann says some of the flue-cured has yet to be primed the first time. That was what TFN found on a visit to Mark Smitherman's farm near Forbush, N.C. On August 26, he was stripping the last of the leaf from about a fourth of his tobacco. The rest hadn't been harvested at all. In East Bend, N.C., Harnett Extension agent Brian Parrish says, "Tobacco is ripening, and many growers are concerned about the availability of barn capacity. Wet conditions have  stressed  tobacco,  with 
Flue-cured grower Mark Smitherman of Forbush, N.C., strips a fourth of his crop on August 26. The rest hadn't been primed the first time.
plants yellowing and wilting as Granville wilt sets in." In Granville County, N.C., "Flue-cured harvest is still running pretty slow due to wet field conditions and the fact that the plants are still pretty green, says Paul Westfall, County Extension agent. In the northern N.C. Piedmont, Hester Vernon of Milton (near Danville, Va.) says his flue-cured looks very good. He grows burley also and that looks good too. "We are harvesting now," he says...In Virginia, about a quarter of the flue-cured crop had been harvested by August 25, according to the NASS, compared to the five-year average of 33 percent.


 
A late but good crop in S.C.: In South Carolina, Kyle Daniel, Extension agent in Georgetown County, said in the USDA Crop Progress Report dated August 25, "Tobacco producers are working hard to get this crop finished up by the end of next week. The crop is much later than normal but it is a good crop." The report said tobacco harvest statewide was 88 percent complete by the 25th, which is somewhat ahead of the five-year average. In Georgia, according to the same report, only 63 percent of the crop had been harvested, less than the five-year average of 69 percent.

 
Roughly 50 percent of Kentucky burley has been harvested, say Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "We are just a little behind schedule. We have had challenges with the weather getting it harvested. In some cases mud has been splashed upon the leaves. Not much has been cured yet." He expects issues with houseburn. "It has been wetter than normal,"he says.

 
Blue mold has appeared on burley in eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia and on shade and broadleaf tobacco in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Burley Extension specialists recommend that if you haven't topped yet or have just topped, consider a fungicidal spray.

 
In southwest Virginia, Danny Peek, Virginia District Extension director in Abingdon, says burley harvest is going full speed now. "Overall, the Virginia burley crop looks really good. We have had enough rain to keep the crop growing. Some areas have received a lot of rain, and there has been some bacterial hollow stalk as a result. This crop should weigh good if we can get it in the barn. But we have a labor shortage, and farmers are nervous about finishing barning in a timely manner." It had been feared back in the spring that there wouldn't be enough plants. It looked like there would be a shortage, but everyone seems to have gotten what they needed, and the plants were of good quality.

 
Some late-planted burley in east Tennessee hasn't been topped yet either, says Eric Walker, Extension tobacco specialist. But this tobacco is coming along well, he says. In Macon County, near Nashville, harvest is about 40 percent complete. The dark crop is much farther along, and Walker has visited one dark farm which will be taking down its first crop soon, perhaps this week...A hail storm two weeks ago in east Tennessee badly damaged the burley at the Research and Education Center in Greeneville, Tn. Rob Ellis, center director, says the hall was spotty and may not have done too much damage in the big burley producing county of Greene. "My feeling is that overall the tobacco in this area is average to above average."

 
A new manager: The Burley Stabilization Corporation has appointed Craig Easterly, a veteran tobacco buyer, as Greenville, Tn., area manager, responding to increased activity at the cooperative's receiving station there.



I hope you have enjoyed Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. If you haven't signed on to receive it regularly or need to change an address, please click on "Join our mailing list" and follow the prompts. 

For more information, call me at 919-789-4631 or email me at chris bickers@gmail.com. Thanks --Chris Bickers
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 ADVERTISING


BIG M TOBACCO WAREHOUSE 
1723 Goldsboro St. SW, Wilson, N.C., 
in the old Liberty Warehouse
Greg Goins is the auctioneer at Big M Warehouse.
We will hold both sealed bid auctions
and live auctions. 
We promise 
HONEST AND TRUSTWORTHY 
SERVICE
We will be GAP certified 
For more information, contact Mann Mullen at 919-496-9033 
or the warehouse switchboard at 252-206-1447.




TMI


Old Belt Tobacco Sales


Tytun rated 1




Thursday, August 14, 2014

PRODUCTION REMAINS A MYSTERY

Field work on a flue-cured farm near Wilson, N.C., on August 6.


The troubling question of how large the U.S. flue-cured and burley crops will turn out to be remains unanswered. The pot was stirred a little more on Tuesday when USDA issued its first all-type projection of the year. Its estimate for flue-cured was slightly lower than in July--531 million pounds instead of 536--but still 17 percent over last year.

But there is less skepticism about USDA's flue-cured projection. One dealer told TFN that the crop could exceed USDA's expectations. "It is a barn buster. It could well reach 550 million pounds. Unless there is a disaster, I don't see how the market is going to absorb it all. I would expect the price for the excess to get down perhaps to 2010 levels." One factor that could affect production: There may not be enough barn space to cure a crop in the half billion pound range.

Flue-cured contracting may have amounted to 460 million pounds, the dealer says. "If we produced just 490 million pounds, every pound would be sold," he says. "But 50 or 75 million more than that? I don't know."

For burley, the USDA estimate is 201 million pounds, up four percent from last year. That seems questionable in light of reports from burley country of intense drought. Daniel Green, c.e.o. of Burley Stabilization Corporation in Springfield, Tn., told TFN, "It has been really dry over the last seven or eight weeks. Rainfall has been well below normal, 
Gold Eagle II
although we have gotten some rain in the last few days. The tobacco is yellowing up and losing leaves from the bottom of the stalk." The situation has had an impact on the yield. "Our original estimate for the crop was 195 million pounds. Now, we might be looking at 185 million. If this dry weather continues, we are going to have a lot of yellow leaf. The color will be variegated." But recent rain could turn things around. "It was enough to allow many growers to let the early tobacco stay in the field to mature and 'body up' a bit more before they cut," says Green. "But much of the later crop was too weather stressed to improve much."


State by state USDA projections: Flue-cured (projected production and change from last season): NC--416.3 million pounds, up 15 percent; GA-- 32.2 million pounds, up 43 percent; SC--31.5 million pounds, up 27 percent; VA--50.6 million pounds, up seven percent. Burley: KY--153.3 million pounds, up three percent; TN--22.4 million pounds, up nine percent; PA--12.75 million pounds, no change; VA--4.875 million pounds, up slightly; OH--4.4 million pounds, down slightly; NC--3.06 million pounds, up 15 percent.

What USDA projects for smaller types: Fire-cured--48.89 million pounds, down slightly. Dark air-cured--14.47 million pounds, up five percent. Cigar types--9.5 million pounds, up 21 percent. Southern Mary-land--4.6 million pounds, down slightly.

In Tennessee's largest burley county, the tobacco burley had been suffering from heat and drought, but there was a little relief earlier this week. Steve Walker, Macon County Extension director, says, "We got a good rain Monday and early Tuesday, about three inches, and that will help. But some later-set tobacco is already beyond help. Some of it is blooming at waist height." Harvest has started, he added. Yield has definitely been reduced.

A lot better dark crop than few days ago: Much of the Black Patch got rain from last Thursday till Monday, says Andy Bailey, Kentucky-Tennessee Extension dark tobacco specialist stationed in Princeton, Ky. "We would have had to start watering this week," he says. "Now harvesting can get going." He says less than five percent of the crop has been cut. 

One of the best-looking flue-cured crops in a long time in Halifax County, Va., says Chris Brown, the county's tobacco Extension agent. "The rainfall pattern has been almost perfect except for one stretch when it fell too heavy and we got some compaction. But we have had steady rainfall since." He added that it is going to be late maturing. One fourth to one third of the ground leaves have been pulled. He thinks the county average will be around 2,800 pounds, and maybe 3,000 pounds.

The rainfall had been ideal for a good crop in Pitt County, N.C., up until a few weeks ago, says Mitch Smith, county Extension director. "But since then, we have had excessive rainfall that has really taken a toll on the crop. Our tobacco is taking on a banana yellow color. Usually we hope for a 2,400 pound county average, but it is looking more like 2,000 pounds." One full harvest has been made, and farmers are having problems curing the lowerstalk leaf, he says. "We try to remove as much water as we can without setting green on the lowerstalk." Pitt County is in Eastern N.C.

A better than average flue-cured crop is coming off in in Georgia and Florida, says J. Michael Moore, Extension specialist for the two states. "Harvest is well under way, and the best tobacco is still in the field. We will be harvesting till well into October." Most lowerstalk tobacco has been harvested, and in Florida, some farmers are already stripping.

Weeds and grasses seemed worse than ever in Georgia. "The wet spring in Georgia resulted in an exceptionally heavy germination of weed seeds and a heavy population of weeds to plague the 2014 tobacco crop," Moore says. A timely application of Poast herbicide can control escaped grass prior to the final cultivation. An application of Aim following the first harvest can assist in controlling newly emerging broadleaf weed seedlings. This application can be made with spray tips attached behind the harvester defoliators and directed toward the top of the bed or using spray hoods suspended from a high clearance sprayer. "Weeds and grass that escape control using herbicides and cultivation require the use of a hoe or must be pulled when they are small," Moore says.

How to sell flue-cured that isn't covered by a contract: Three auction warehouses have informed TFN that they will begin flue-cured auctions in the next two weeks. A fourth will begin in September. Details follow. (Watch these pages for burley auction opening dates as soon as they are available.)
  • August 20--Big M Tobacco Warehouse, 1723 Goldsboro St. SW, Wilson, N.C. Format: Sealed bid (Live auctions will be conducted later in the season). Contact: Mann Mullen  at 919 496 9033.
  • August 21--Carolinas Tobacco Auctions, 662 So. Ron McNair Blvd., Lake City, S.C. Format: Silent. Live auctions will be conducted later).Contact: Jimmy Lynch at 843 687 5753.
  • August 26--Old Belt Tobacco Sales warehouse, 1395 Old Belt Way, Rural Hall, N.C. Format: Live. Contact: Dennis White at 336 416 6262.
  • September (Date to be announced)--Piedmont Warehouse, 301 Trade St., Danville, Va.  Format: Silent.  Contact: T.Y. Mason at  434 203 1404. 
DATES TO REMEMBER
  • August 25, 9 a.m. Cross Creek Seed Field Day, Tull Hill Farm, 2264 Hugo Rd., Kinston, N.C.



BIG M TOBACCO WAREHOUSE 
1723 Goldsboro St. SW, Wilson, N.C., 
in the old Liberty Warehouse
Greg Goins is the auctioneer at Big M Warehouse.
We will hold both sealed bid auctions
and live auctions. 
We promise 
HONEST AND TRUSTWORTHY 
SERVICE
We will be GAP certified 
For more information, contact Mann Mullen at 919-496-9033 
or the warehouse switchboard at 252-206-1447.




 



 CM Setter now no.1 in the tobacco belt



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Old Belt Tobacco Sales



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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Why a bin-busting flue-cured crop may be on the way



Welcome to the August I issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. If you haven't signed on to receive it regularly or need to change an address, please click on "Join our mailing list" and follow the prompts. Want to talk? call me at 919 789 4631 or email at chrisbickers@gmail.com. Thanks--Chris Bickers
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Is a bitter pill waiting for flue-cured growers? Excess production could result in lower returns. Harvest--as in this file photo of a field near Salemburg, N.C.--is well under way.
Could a bitter pill await flue-cured growers? Excess production could lead to a sharply lower price. Above: Mechanical harvest near Salemburg, N.C.


IS THE FLUE-CURED CROP
TOO MUCH FOR DEMAND?

It is just speculation at this point but some reliable sources tell me that the USDA projection of a 536 million pound flue-cured crop--as opposed to 454 million in 2013--may not be unrealistic at all: The crop may just be that good. One source told me that unless there is a yield-reducing storm, we might be looking at a substantial over-production of bright leaf, perhaps even more than USDA projected. "The price could get pretty low," he says. "The companies seem to have gotten as much as they needed last season, and there is just nowhere for a large uncommitted production to go."

But one factor could help: As of August 1, the crop appears to be of very good quality, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "The quality is there," he says of the North Carolina crop. "It is a little more of an American style this season than last, when we saw more lemon style tobacco, which is a bit higher in sugar. This crop appears more orange." He says harvest has been going on in the Border Belt for about a month and is just starting in the Old Belt. 



Perhaps as many as a quarter of the growers in the Winston-Salem, N.C., area had started harvesting by August 1, says Dennis White, auction manager of the Old Belt Tobacco Sales warehouse in nearby Rural Hall. "Most of the rest will start next week." He thinks the Piedmont crop could potentially be the biggest since the buyout. "A lot of our tobacco got all the rain it's needed,"  he says. "The late crop had some moisture problems, but the heavy rains we are having now should help fill out the top."  Editor's Note:  White expects to begin auction sales on August 26. For more information, call 336 416 6262. In my next issue, I will publish opening dates and contact information for as many auctions as have set them.

Harvest is in full swing in South Carolina as the crop is beginning to ripen up the stalk, said Georgetown County Extension agent Kyle Daniel in a USDA survey. "Farmers are cropping everyday to keep pace with the crop as it matures by stalk position."


It is a different story in burley country: The crop has been suffering from extended dry weather. In east Tennessee, it  has really interfered with  plant growth on some farms. "Our tobacco bloomed at waist high instead of 
at shoulder high, and now it is a foot shorter than what we expect," says L.D. Simmons of Johnson City. This was caused by all the heat. "To tell the truth, I thought it


was going to die early on, but it survived. But the tobacco couldn't grow without any rain"...Parts of Tennessee had no rain at all in late May or in early June. "If you had to put your tobacco out in the midst of the heat, there were problems," says Joe Beeler, research associate at the University of Tennessee. "We saw some tobacco bloom early since it was under so much stress. And there were some serious problems with activation of Spartan and Command." But he has seen this more in northeast Tennessee than in north central Tennessee. "We have some really dry areas in Greene and Hawkins counties. But the tobacco in much of the state is doing okay." Beeler thinks burley acreage is similar to 2013....The USDA reported that through July 28, 54 percent of the burley crop in Kentucky  had reached the bloom stage, compared to the five-year average of 44 percent.



A new tobacco specialist in Tennessee: Eric Walker has been appointed the Volunteer State's new Extension tobacco specialist. Like his predecessor Paul Denton, who retired at the end of May 2013, Walker will spend part of his time working with Kentucky growers. He will be assisted by Joe Beeler, a research associate in plant science in Knoxville who has served for the last year and a half as the interim tobacco specialist. A native of Robertson County, Walker grew up on a fire-cured farm. He earned degrees from Austin Peay State University, the University of Tennessee and the University of Arkansas, and most recently taught plant science at the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Heading for the Highlands: In a break with tradition, Walker will not be stationed in Knoxville. Instead, his office will be at the Highland Rim Experiment Station in Springfield, which is much closer to the production center of Tennessee tobacco. 

Despite a new executivethe U.S. Tobacco Cooperative is still short-handed. It recently promoted chief USTIC financial officer Stuart Thompson to the new post of chief executive officer, but Tommy Bunn, USTC president, said the coop-erative is still short handed. "We are looking for a new chief financial officer right now. We plan to have one in place in the next few weeks."

Is lemon leaf losinits appeal in China? "The demand [for U.S. leaf] from China has moved to leaf of more of a bright orange color as opposed to the lemon color that they were interested in when they first began buying here," says Bunn ... Pay out for producers: USTC paid its 2013 crop growers 21 cents a pound in patronage dividends in late July. This was the fourth consecutive year the cooperative has paid dividend. Tommy Bunn, USTC president, gave  credit  to the farmers. "Part of the reason for the dividends is the good job farmers have done in producing the quality tobacco that buyers want," he said. "They have been flexible in res-ponding to changes in market demand." A total of 889 growers shared in the $5.1 million payout.

DATES TO REMEMBER
  • August 4-5, Kentucky Tobacco Industry Tour. Contact: Bob Pearce, 859 257-5110.
  • August 7, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tobacco Twilight Tour, Murray State University West Farm, Murray, Ky. Contact: Andy Bailey, tobacco specialist, at 270-365-7541 ext. 240.

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