Monday, December 5, 2016


Bales of flue-cured on the floor of Old Belt Sales warehouse in Rural Hall, N.C., right after the last sale of the season on November 22.

Glad its all over: The flue-cured market came to what was for all practical purposes
the end of its season on November 22 when the Old Belt Warehouse in Rural Hall, 
N.C., held its last 2016 auction. Much of the offerings at that sale and the one
 held the week before was sunbaked and drew a low price. But until that late-season
slide, the price had held up pretty well, says  warehouse manager Dennis White. 
 "We averaged somewhere around $1.60 a pound, which was comparable to contract prices."
he says. He estimated the practical top at $1.80 a pound. His farmers seemed satisfied
at the auction performance as a whole.

The Piedmont got off to a terrible start when spring rains created what was in effect
an early crop and a late crop...and the early crop got much the better growing conditions.
"We wound up with 62 days of 95 degree plus temperatures, and that weighed very 
heavily on the later planted tobacco," says White. "The quality may have been as
 bad as 1977 or maybe worse."

Getting updated on good agricultural practices: GAP Connections (GAPC) farmer meetings
begin in early January. Some dates have already been set (see below). "The   meetings
will be conducted in cooperation with the state Extension programs, as local meetings
or as part of other regular events such as trade shows, association meetings and
 company meetings," says Paul Denton of the GAP staff. "Training will cover crop
 management, environmental management and labor management--specific to the needs
of growers in the area--with a short update on GAPC programs and activities."
Does "GAP Certified" mean anything? The phrase GAP Certified has appeared from time
to time since the training sessions first began, including advertising ap-pearing
in this publication. Auction warehouses used the phrase the first year to indicate
their full cooperation and especially their willingness to arrange GAP training 
for growers who didn't have access to meetings, so that they can obtain certification.
Editor's Note: As far as I know, this never happened. That phrase should be eliminated. As Denton tells TFN, "There currently is no label
of 'GAP Certified' for farms following GAP standards. Even for those growers who
 go through a third-party assessment, there is no score given and no designation
 of passing or failing by GAPC." Contracting companies can require grower participation
in the program and affirm that their growers attend training and complete an assessment
if chosen. "But they cannot accurately say that their growers are 'GAP certified'
through GAPC because there is no true certification system in place," said Denton.
A followup report on international tobacco control: Despite attempts to bring their
concerns before the current negotiations on the Framework Convention for Tobacco
 Control (FCTC) in India last month (see the November II 2016 issue of TFN), leaders
of   the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) say they have had little
success. "In spite of our efforts to open a line of communication with the FCTC 
Secretariat and our willingness to cooperate and share our members' vast experience
ITGA has been denied participation or even an audience with the delegates or the
 FCTC Secretariat," says Daniel Green, c.e.o. of Burley Stabilization Corporation
in Springfield, Tn., and new president of ITGA. "We will keep you informed on this

Outlook bleak for burley and dark: GAPC's Denton says his sources in Kentucky are
"really" pessimistic about the yield and quality of this year's offerings. "One 
dark representative thinks the dark-fired crop could be off by half, and the burley
growers I've talked to report yields in the 1,500-pound range," he says. "There 
is some concern about high color due to dry curing conditions." But reports from
 Ohio and Pennsylvania are much more optimistic, he says.

Burley supply and demand balance improved greatly over the past year, says Will 
Snell, Kentucky Extension economist,. That lead to "modest changes in U.S. burley
contract volume for 2016, following significant reductions in 2015," Snell says.  "Smaller crops in South America, Africa and the United States. coupled with a surprising
[though] modest increase in U.S. cigarette production in 2015 helped offset the adverse impacts of a strengthening dollar on U.S. burley international competitiveness."
A quick reduction in flue-cured inventories: Large global inventories of flue-cured
were problematic going into 2015 but had largely disappeared by 2016, says Blake
 Brown, N.C. Extension economist. The quick reduction was mostly due to excessive
rain in Brazil in 2016 that led to the smallest flue-cured crop in over a decade, at just over one billion pounds, according to Universal Leaf. That was down from
 1.26 billion pounds in 2015. Zimbabwe also experienced a smaller 2016 flue-cured crop because of severe drought during autumn 2015. Its production for 2016 was estimated
at 438 million pounds, down from 477 million pounds in 2015, according to the Zimbabwe
Tobacco Association.


* December 1. N.C. Tobacco Day 2016. Johnston County Extension Center, 2736 N.C.
 Hwy. 210, Smithfield, N.C. Meeting starts at 8:15 a.m. and ends with lunch.
* January 11-12. S.C. Agribiz and Farm Expo. Florence (S.C.) Civic Center.
* February 1-3. Southern Farm Show. N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, N.C.
* February 3. Annual Meeting, Tobacco Growers Association of N.C., Holshouser Bldg.,
N.C. State Fairgrounds. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., ending with lunch (during Southern Farm


North Carolina (Flue-Cured)

* January 4, 9 a.m. Martin County Farmers Market, 4001 West Main St., Williamston
NC. Lunch will be provided. DOL and WPS presentations will be at beginning of meeting.
Need 75 labor posters. Contact Al Cochran at at 252-789-4370.
* January 6, 9 a.m. The Farmer's Market, 1006 Peachtree St., Rocky Mount NC. Contact
Art Bradley at at-252-614-7815.
* January 10, 9 a.m. Johnston County Extension Center  2736 NC 210 Highway, Smithfield
NC. Contact Bryant Spivey at 919-989-5380.
* January 11, 9 a.m. Wilson County Ag Center, 1806 Goldsboro St. SW, Wilson NC 27893.
Contact Norman Harrell at  or 252-237-0111.
* January 12, 8:30 a.m. Forsyth County Extension Center, 1450 Fairchild Rd., Winston
Salem NC. Lunch provided. Contact Tim Hambrick or or 336-703-2857.
* January 13, 8:30 a.m. Granville County Expo Center, 4185 US Highway 15, South 
Oxford NC. Contact Gary Cross at or 919-603-1350.
* January 18, 9 a.m. Wayne County Extension Center, 208 Chestnut St., Goldsboro 
NC. Contact Tyler Whaley at or 919-731-1527.
* January 19, 9 a.m. Lenoir County Shrine Club, 1558 Hwy 70, East Kinston NC. Registration
begins at 8 a.m. Contract Mike Carroll or - 252-633-1477.
* January 20, 9 a.m. McSwain Extension Center, 2420 Tramway Rd., Sanford NC. Contact
Zack Taylor at or919-775-5624  3455.
* January 23, 8 a.m. Caswell County Civic Center, 536 Main St., East Yanceyville
 NC. Registration opens at 8 a.m. Meeting will start at 9 a.m.. Lunch will be served.
Contact Joey E. Knight, III at or 336-694-4158.
* January 24, 9 a.m. Harnett County Government Complex Commons Area 309 W. Cornelius
Harnett Blvd Lillington NC 27546 Registration begins at 8 a.m. Contact Brian Parrish
at or 910-8937530.
* January 25, 9 a.m. Sampson County Ag Expo Center 414 Warsaw Rd. Clinton NC. Contact
Della King at or 910-592-7161.
* February 3, 1:30 p.m. Holshouser Bld., NC State Fair Grounds, Raleigh NC (in conjunction
with TGANC Annual Meeting during Southern Farm Show). Lunch will be provided. Contact
Matthew Vann at or 919-513-0904.

Virginia (Flue-cured)

* January 17, 9 a.m. Southern Piedmont Center, 2375 Darvills Rd., Blackstone VA 
Registration at 8:30 a.m. Contact Lindy Tucker at or 434-696-5526.
* January 18, 4 p.m. Meherrin River Hunt Club, 435 Dry Creek Rd., South Hill VA.
 Registration at 3:30 p.m. Contact Taylor Clarke at or 434-738-6191.
* January 19, 4 p.m. Olde Dominion Ag Complex  19783 U. S. Highway 29, South Chatham
VA. Registration at 3:30 p.m. Contact Stephen Barts 434-432-7770  
* January 25, 10 a.m. Scottsburg Volunteer Fire Dept., 3050 Scottsburg Rd., Scottsburg
VA. Registration at 9:30 a.m. Contact Rebecca Slabach at cbrown04@ 434-476-2147.
* February 15, 10 a.m. Midway Baptist Ch., Midway Rd., Phenix VA. Registration at
9:30 a.m. Contact Bob Jones at or 434-542-5884.

Monday, October 31, 2016


Who does WHO think it is? Earlier this month, a delegation of members of the International Tobacco Growers Association led by Daniel Green of Springfield, Tn. (above center, wearing plaid shirt and navy jacket), demanded the opportunity to observe WHO deliberations on a tobacco-related treaty. The effort failed but it is hoped the message got across. (Photo provided by ITGA. Note: Just to Green's left is ITGA c.e.o. Antonio Abrunhosa, in tan jacket, dark tie.)

Fighting for tobacco India: A delegation of tobacco growers from six countries, including the United States, traveled to Greater Noida, India, recently to be part of demonstrations organized by the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) against the World Health Organization, which was holding a meeting of its tobacco treaty ratifying organization. Led by its president Daniel Green, the chief executive officer of Burley Stabilization Corp. of Springfield, Tn., growers demonstrated outside the meeting facility, demanding inclusion in the debate of this and any issues that affect their livelihoods. The farmers were denied a chance to participate and were even detained briefly by the police. 

Why our farmers were there: "We're seeking a civil dialogue about issues that affect more than 30 million farmers and their families around the world. We have repeatedly been denied our right to be heard," said Green, who was assisted by BSC director Barry Bush of Cookeville, Tn. "Growers understand the need for tobacco regulation. But such regulation should be rational and science-based. Instead, we see extreme, emotion-driven proposals that only result in missed opportunities to protect public health and provide alternative economic opportunities to tobacco-dependent farm families and their communities."

Why WHO wouldn't let them in: The head of the UN Tobacco Treaty Secretariat, when asked why tobacco farmers had never been involved in the ratification process, said they didn't belong there! "I have seen the tobacco farmers, and they always try to manipulate," said Vera da Costa e Silva. "Even if they are brought on table, they are not on the table and always think about the profits. [Also] they bribe. So sometimes it's difficult to actually let them participate."

Not surprisingly, the ITGA representatives hit the ceiling, saying Costa e Silva demonstrated a lack of knowledge (and, apparently, any interest) in the plight of farmers. "The U.S. government is the top contributor to the WHO," Green said. "[We have] hundreds of millions of dollars of [Ameri-can] taxpayer money funding an organization that operates undemo-cratically, behind closed doors." Not only did WHO exclude tobacco farmers and other stakeholders from the conference, it also prevented news media from observing the deliberations.

Editor's Note: What is the world coming to if we have international bureaucrats making policy affecting farmers who don't believe farmers should be concerned about making a profit? And the treaty that is causing all this fuss--the the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control--has numerous negative tive implications for your operation. There may be some relief on the horizon: The FCTC has not been ratified by the U.S. yet. Well, let me see what I can do. I will research this topic further and have more for you in my next issue, roughly two weeks from now.

New ITGA leaders: Green was elected president of ITGA in October. Also elected: Reuben Maigwa, Malawi, vice president; Tsveta Filev, Bulgaria, treasurer; and Anthony Neill Ford, Zambia,  chairman, African region.


  • December 1. N.C. Tobacco Day 2016. Johnston County Extension Center, 2736 N.C. Hwy. 210, Smithfield, N.C. Meeting starts at 8:15 a.m. and ends with lunch.
  • January 11-12. S.C. Agribiz and Farm Expo. Florence (S.C.) Civic Center.
  • February 1-3. Southern Farm Show. N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, N.C.
  • February 3. Annual Meeting, Tobacco Growers Association of N.C., Holshouser Bldg., N.C. State Fairgrounds. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., ending with lunch (during Southern Farm Show).

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Burley wilting on sticks in the field before transportation to curing barns. This file photo was taken in Macon County, Tn., near Nashville, in October 2014.
Burley production will fall well below USDA's original expectation, which was about 150 million pounds. Steve Pratt, general manager of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association in Lexington, Ky., says it might end as low as 110 million pounds. His counterpart in Springfield, Tn., Daniel Green, chief executive officer of Burley Stabilization Corporation, says, "If I had to guess, I would say around 120 million pounds beltwide. I don't think it will be any more than that." The USDA is more optimistic: In its most recent projection, dated October 12, the figure was 143 million pounds. 

Way too much water: For burley growers, 2016 will be remembered as the year of too much water. "Much of the season was exceptionally wet for burley growers," says Green. "A lot of burley had to be bush hogged because of water damage. Then about the time it finally dried out, the weather turned exceptionally dry." There will be a relative shortage of lower stalk leaf because much fell off in the field as a result of the wet weather, he says. In many cases, the rest of the stalk was affected by fungal diseases. The upperstalk may not have as much of the brown to red color buyers like. "We will likely see a lot of bright color resulting from the dry curing season," says Green.

Perhaps a third of the burley crop in Tennessee has been stripped, says Green... Burley cured in outside curing structures seem to have produced some of the better-colored leaf so far this year, perhaps because the leaf has been exposed to more ground moisture, says Green... Some farmers in Kentucky couldn't get their burley in the barns fast enough, says Pratt. "It was starting to cure out when they cut it. They couldn't wilt it as long as they wanted"...Central Kentucky on the whole had better weather than western Kentucky which received more rain, says Pratt...East Tennessee had dry weather much of the season, says Eric Walker, Extension tobacco specialist. "A lot of the tobacco was adversely affected by disease, and some was significantly hurt by dry weather. But some did get timely rains and looked pretty good."

This year's burley should sell well. But will demand go unmet? Demand for American burley has been estimated at 150 million pounds, and there will definitely be a shortfall. But both burley cooperatives and most leaf companies dealing in burley have inventory left from previous crops, says Green. "The inventories could
mostly cover the shortfall." Certain stalk positions may be hard to find, including tips, red-leaf and flyings, he says. Another reason for scarcity--the short burley crop in the U.S. is following a short burley crop in South America.

Bitter truth for flue-cured growers:  Nobody likes sunbaked leaf. Flue-cured growers generally got their crop planted last spring in good order (though Piedmont growers had to plant around periods of rain and wound up with some of their production planted very late). The season was going well until extreme rain affected middle growth, followed by day after day of 95-degree temperatures. "That sunbaked the top of the plant, and unfortunately for us, no one wants sunbaked leaf," says one observer. Foliar diseases were a big problem, also.

Still taking flue-cured: Two of the U.S. Tobacco Cooperative marketing centers are still receiving leaf: the La Crosse, Va., facility, which will finish on November 9, and the Kernersville, N.C., facility, which will finish on November 11.

New varieties from Rickards--Rickard Seeds is introducing three new flue-cured varieties this season: PVH 1600 features dual resistance to black shank Race 1 and 0 compounded with Granville wilt resistance. PVH 2254 features resistance to Granville wilt, TMV and dual resistance to black shank Race 1 and 0. It is a high-yielding, late-season variety that has gained worldwide popularity. NC 938 is the newest variety from N.C. State University's breeding program and features high yields, black shank Race 1 and 0 resistance, and intermediate Granville wilt resistance. It will be jointly marketed with the other major seed producers.

  • December 1. N.C. Tobacco Day 2016. Johnston County Extension Center, 2736 N.C. Hwy. 210, Smithfield, N.C. Meeting starts at 8:15 a.m. and ends with lunch.
Editor's note: If you you would like to signed on to receive the newsletter at your email address (or change an existing address), please click on "Join our mailing list" below and follow the prompts. For more information, you can call me at 919-789-4631 or email at Bickers
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Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Burnt tails, green butts--You saw a lot of this late in the season in North Carolina, thanks mainly to a period of intense dry heat.

The tobacco season of 2016 came to nearly its end with a really big storm when Hurricane Matthew blew through on October 8. The leaf that was still out there was subjected to torrential rains and whipping winds and worse, flooding later. But not much was left in the most affected state, North Carolina. And not any was still out in South Carolina, Georgia or Florida. The only state that still has significant tobacco in the field, Virginia, suffered much less damage from the storm.

Matthew damage minimal: In North Carolina, the effects of Hurricane Matthew on tobacco in the coastal plain were minimal, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "We had advanced warning, and farmers made a mad dash to get their tobacco out before it arrived. I don't think we will wind up seeing much loss from the hurricane." A few farmers reported losses in the barn because of power outages and the wet conditions ..."Only about one percent of the crop was still in the field," says Vann. Fortunately, there has been no early frost, he says, and the weather since the hurricane has been very mild. So the rest of the crop should be harvested very soon ...In the Piedmont, the hurricane caused even less damage. "We are seeing that the quality of the late crop there has been better than we might have expected," he says. Flue-cured growers will have an acceptable average yield, says Vann, but he thinks total production in the state may not reach the 346 million pounds that USDA projected last week. "It could be as low as 325 million pounds," he says.

No significant flooding: In Virginia, the rain was steady and prolonged in the 48 hours associated with Matthew. "We got five to seven inches in Pittsylvania County," says Stephen Barts, Extension agriculture agent for the county. "But there wasno significant flooding. We didn't have the standing water they had in North Carolina." The main effect was that Virginians lost three or four days in the field at a time when they could ill afford it. Now, he calculates that about a quarter of the farmers in his area still have tobacco in the field, and some still have a way to go before finishing it. "We may see some harvested on November 1, if Jack Frost doesn't get it first," he says. "But most should be finished this week and most of the rest the next week, again depending on frost."

Burley states warm and dry: In Kentucky and Tennessee, the problem has been unseasonably warm weather and extended drought. "For all practical purposes we have finished harvest," says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "Labor has been the main issue. It's been a struggle for some to get this crop hung. But there is very little burley out there now that is still worth harvesting." The earliest planted crop is curing real well, he says. But there are some concerns about the later crop. It was deteriorating in the field. "Because of the warm October, we may not have too much green. But the late-harvested burley may be brighter than we like." Yields will be below average, and Pearce thinks USDA has overestimated U.S. burley production. "I don't think we will reach 143 million pounds. I think 125 million pounds is more realistic" ... It has been very dry in Tennessee too. "We are the driest I have ever seen in Knox County in October in the 25 years I have lived here," says Neal Denton, Knox County Extension agent ...In southwest Virginia, rain from the hurricane provided some moisture. But it was very sporadic, says Scott Jerrell, Extension agent in Scott County.


  • North Carolina--346.5 million pounds, down 8.4 percent. Yield 2,100 pounds.
  • Virginia--52.8 million pounds, up 6.8 percent. Yield 2,400 pounds.
  • South Carolina--31 million pounds, up 19 percent. Yield 2,300 pounds
  • Georgia--29.7 million pounds, minus 8.4 percent. Yield 2,200 pounds.
  • U.S.--460 million pounds, down 5.3 percent. Yield 2,150 pounds.
  • Kentucky--22.8 million pounds, down 28 percent. Yield 2,400 pounds.
  • Tennessee--18.5 million pounds, down 22.2 percent. Yield 2,650 pounds.
  • Virginia--594,000 pounds, up 3.3 percent. Yield 2,200 pounds.
  • U.S.--41.9 million pounds, down 25.3 percent. Yield 2,501 pounds.
  • Kentucky--110.2 million pounds, up 5.6 percent. Yield 1,750 pounds.
  • Tennessee--17.4 million pounds, down 19.4 percent. Yield 1,450 pounds.
  • Pennsylvania--11.5 million pounds, up 6.5 percent. Yield 2,400 pounds.
  • Virginia--2.1 million pounds, down 10.1 percent. Yield 1,800 pounds.  88h
  • North Carolina--1.7 million pounds, down 8.1 percent. Yield 1,900 pounds.
  • U.S.--143 million pounds, down 1.1 percent. Yield 1,747 pounds. 
  • Pennsylvania--3.8 million pounds, up nine percent. Yield 2,400 pounds.
  • Kentucky--8.6 million pounds, down 37.1 percent. Yield 1,800 pounds.
  • Tennessee--2.76 million pounds, down 18.1 percent. Yield 2,300 pounds.
  • U.S.--11.4 million pounds, down 33.1 percent. Yield 1,900 pounds.
  • Pennsylvania--3.84 million pounds, up two percent. Yield 2,400 pounds.
  • 664 million pounds, down seven percent. Yield 2,063 pounds.