Thursday, March 26, 2015


A farmer in north Florida sets out flue-cured plants in this file shot from the Georgia Tobacco Hotline.


Georgia and Florida: Plantings began this week in Florida and Georgia. Acreage of tobacco in the Deep South (all flue-cured) will probably be down about 25 percent, says J. Michael Moore, Extension tobacco specialist in Georgia and Florida. That would be 12,000 acres in Georgia (down from 15,000) and 1,200 acres in Florida (down from 1,500). 

South Carolina: In the Pee Dee area, planting will begin very soon, says Justin Ballew, Dillon County, S.C., agriculture agent. Seeding got going in earnest at the beginning of February. "Most of our growers have clipped several times," he says. The only greenhouse problem has been an instance of chlorine damage in Horry County, he says. 

North Carolina: Field preparation and fumigation for flue-cured are running behind, says N.C. Extension tobacco specialist Loren Fisher, but there should be enough time if the weather cooperates. Plant development in the greenhouse may be a little behind also, but it looks like the plants should be ready by the time the fields are ready.

In other news...

What do you do with burley that hasn't been stripped yet? "Leave it on the stick," says grower Roger Quarles of Georgetown, Ky. "Let it go through a few sweats in June and then strip it in August. That seems the best way to handle it."

The burley storage plan meets some success. The U.S. Growers Tobacco Company (USGTC), accepted 169,000 pounds of burley in its program to take delivery, process and store burley tobacco from the 2014 crop (see "A strategy for marketing what's left of the 2014 crop,"TFN March I). Deliveries ended last week. "We could have taken in a lot more, but the word got out late," says Quarles, USGTC president. "What we took in is excellent quality and will make for a very salable strip." Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association, the burley cooperative in Lexington, Ky., will market the burley, but the growers will maintain ownership.

The worst black shank damage in recent memory struck Georgia last year, but Moore thinks it will be much less in 2015. "Some of the new varieties like GL 395, CC 143 and NC 925 offer very good resistance to Race 1," he says. "Also, we have a new chemical in Presidio." With fewer acres planted, farmers will be better able to avoid black shank hot spots.

What will it take to create a recovery in the tobacco economy? Smaller crops and reduction in inventories would help, said Blake Brown, N.C. Extension economist, at the recent meeting of Tobacco Associates.  More favorable exchange rates would be another boon, and growth in the China market could offset continued declines in U.S. and EU markets. But what could de-rail a 2016 recovery? "Bumper 2015 crops, a continued weak global economy and weak and lower-value currencies in our customer countries relative to the U.S. dollar," said Brown.


  • March 31, 6:30 p.m. Barren County Extension Office, 555 Trojan Trail, Glasgow, Ky. Contact 270-651-3818 or 
  • April 6, 6:30 p.m. LYNC (Distance Training) This is a live webinar. Please contact your local County Extension Office to attend.


  • April 7, 6:30 p.m. Weston CafĂ©, 407 Main St., Weston. Platte County. Contact 816-776-6961 or

OHIO (Burley)

  • April 13, 7 p.m. OSU Extension Office, 111 Jackson Pike, Gallipolis, Oh. Gallia County. Contact 740-446-7007.
  • April 14, 7 p.m. Eastern Brown High School Cafeteria, 11557 U.S. Hwy. 62, Winchester. Brown County. Contact 937-544-2339 or 

  • April 1, 10 a.m., Southern Piedmont Center, 2375 Darvills Rd., Blackstone, Va. Nottoway (Flue). Contact 434-292-5331 or
  • April 9, 10 a.m. Ronnie Waller Farm. 3083 Golden Leaf Rd., Nathalie, Va. Contact 434-432-7770. Barn testing certification.
    April 9, 2 p.m. Thompson Farms, 400 Marvin Collie Dr., Ringgold, Va. Contact 434-432-7770. Barn testing certification.
Quality does not cost, it pays

Friday, March 6, 2015


Some burley is still hanging in the barn after unfavorable weather delayed stripping. This burley was photographed last October near Springfield, Tn.

An unexpected home for excess burley: The U.S. Growers Tobacco Company (USGTC), a subsidiary of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association (BTGCA), has announced a program to store up to a million pounds of excess 2014 burley for later sale. "USGTC will provide facilities where growers can deliver, process and store tobacco while waiting for prices to become favorable," says Steve Pratt, BTGCA general manager. "This will provide growers an option of retaining ownership of their tobacco to hopefully catch better prices for their leaf while avoiding the current very low auction market." Because little demand is expected for lower quality 2014 burley, only leaf receiving quality grades of 1, 2 or 3 will be accepted.

Any U.S. burley grower, whether a customer of BTGCA or not, may participate in the program. It will be the responsibility of the grower to deliver leaf to the Springfield, Ky., BTGCA station. An appointment is required--call Margaret at the Washington County Co-op at 859 336-3491. As it stands now, deliveries will be scheduled next week and the week after. The leaf will be processed and co-mingled by marketable type and grade.  BTGCA is donating the administrative costs, so farmers will only be responsible for the cost of receiving, storage and processing, payable through deductions from payments.

USGTC provided this service once before a few years ago, says Roger Quarles, a Georgetown, Ky., burley grower and USGTC president. "That crop took two years to sell, but I hope this one won't take as long," he says. "This is an excellent option for tobacco that has already been baled since it will be stored properly, free of any deterioration and fully insured until sold."

Deliveries have just ended for the Tennessee burley cooperative, and Daniel Green, chief executive officer at Burley Stabilization Corporation, says that despite the weather, there was some great tobacco coming in right up to the end. But some showed effects of the freezes. "Some tobacco didn't cure out in time to be sold," says Green. "The growers weren't able to get it stripped. A lot of that is still hanging in the barn, which is probably the best place for it to be if it doesn't have a home." For the coming season, the cooperative will only buy from its established growers, at prices that vary based on the style of the tobacco. BSC hasn't started contracting yet but a reduction in volume is certain.

Greenhouse seeding of the flue-cured crop is well under way in eastern N.C., says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "In the Piedmont, it is just starting. It's been slowed by extreme cold, snow and cloudy days." He recommends careful attention to temperature. "You want to be sure it is warm enough to permit germination but be prepared to lower it if we have a 70 degree day."

The N.C. Tobacco Foundation has created a new tobacco agronomist position in research, teaching and Extension in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University and named it in honor of Dr. William K. Collins, retired N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. It has also announced the formation of a distinguished professorship endowment at N.C. State University. It will take $10 to $12 million to endow both positions in perpetuity, and $7 million has already been raised from companies, organizations and individuals. If you would like to make a gift, gifts and pledges may be made securely online at http// or by sending a check payable to the N.C. Tobacco Foundation and marked "Collins Initiative" to Keith Oakley, Campus Box 7645, Raleigh, N.C. 27695-7645.

Plant production in Kentucky could be slowed thanks to the harsh weather so far this winter. "We had the most snow I have ever seen here (on March 4)," says Quarles of Georgetown. "I found 15 inches on my patio." Some greenhouses may have collapsed if farmers didn't heat them enough to melt the snow. The confused contracting situation isn't helping either. "Farmers are going to be slow to seed, and that may result in a later crop."


  • Zimbabwe may be down 50 million pounds: The prices on opening day of flue-cured auction markets in Zimbabwe were so low that angry growers stopped the sale at one auction floor, according to the Zimbabwe Herald. The assistance of law enforcement personnel was required to resume the sale. A projection issued by the national Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board predicted that growers are unlikely to produce more than 427 million pounds of flue-cured and may produce as little as 403 million pounds. Both projections are considerably below last year's volume of 476 million pounds.
  • Malawi may be down 20 million pounds. The Tobacco Control Commission of Malawi expects production of about 400 million pounds about 22 million pounds less than in 2014 because of heavy rains.
  • Canada was up 4.3 million pounds in the crop just marketed, with production of 61 million pounds. There were 241 growers, all in the province of Ontario, and they planted 21,670 acres. Contracting for 2015 is just beginning.
Making nutrients more available: Actosol, a humic acid product from ARCTECH, is said by its manufacturer to improve the soil and make nutrients more available to tobacco plants. "You can foliar spray it or apply through drip irrigation, and it can lower your dependence on other fertilizers," says Dennis Bickel, sales manager. "All your fields will benefit but your lowest performing fields will see the biggest impact of adding Actosol to your program." ARCTECH guarantees increased production, says Bickel. "You can't lose." 



Cross Creek


 209 Harding St., Danville, Ky.
PH: 859-236-4932

Full-service burley warehouse

Jerry Rankin, Owner


GEORGIA (Flue-cured)
  • March 12, 12:45 p.m and 2 p.m. Holiday Inn Express, 1636 South Peterson Ave., Douglas, Ga. Contact 229 392-6424 or 
  • March 17, 6:30 p.m. Ag Pavilion, 280 Bryan Rd., Rutledge, Tn. Grainger County. Contact 865 828-3411 or
  • March 3, 6:30 p.m. Appalachian Fairgrounds, Lakeview St., Gray, Tn. Washington County, Contact 423 753-1680 or

  • March 17, 6 p.m. Madison County Extn. Ctr., 258 Carolina Ln., Marshall, N.C. Madison County. Contact 828-682-6186 or Stanley_ 
 INDIANA (Burley)
OHIO (Burley)
  • March 26, 10 a.m. Jacob Fisher Farm-Woodburn Hill Shed Shop, 27735 Woodburn Hill Rd., Mechanicsville, Md. St. Mary's County. Contact or 919218-3495.
  • March 24, 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Hoffman Building, Park Ave, Ouarryville, Pa. Lancaster County. Contact 717 394-6851 or
  • March 26, 9 a.m. Southern Clinton Sportsman Association, 55 South Sportsmans Rd., Loganton, Pa. Clinton County. Contact 717 393-4560 or

  • March 19, 10 a.m. Scott County Community Services Building (Community Room), 190 Beech St., Gate City, Va. Scott County. Contact 276-346-1522 or
  • March 19, 6 p.m. Adult Learning Center, 153 School Board Place, Jonesville, Va. Lee County. Contact 276- 452-2772 or

Friday, February 27, 2015


Plants on the way to the field on a flue-cured farm near Nashville, N.C., in May 2014.

This is no year to grow tobacco without a contract, says Steve Pratt, general manager of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association (BTGCA) in Lexington, Ky. "That would be like betting your money on the horses instead of on your growing ability, and it will not be wise to take a chance like that in a market like this. I absolutely do not recommend it."

Closed by the cold: BTGCA closed its receiving station last week because of the weather. "We hope to reopen this week," Pratt says. "We were planning on having February 26 as our last delivery date."

But the auctions will probably remain open in Kentucky as long as they have buyers and as long as the leaf keeps coming in, Pratt thinks. "The price will be below contract levels, but some farmers will be anxious to sell it at some price if they can." But he is not sure all of it will. "I just don't know if all the tobacco is going to get sold. The reality is we had a big crop with a high yield. Now quite a bit is still out there. But we have a world oversupply." Most dealers have tobacco 'on the shelf' and it is not moving very well, he says.

It is a very slow market right now. "I don't think many companies-including us-are buying pounds beyond contract," he says. "If they are, it would be most likely be at a second tier of pricing." His assessment: Burley contractings for some companies could conceivably be down as much as 50 percent from last year.

Stripping in Kentucky came to a near halt last week by snow and intense cold. "We got 10 inches of snow at the beginning of this week, and we've had three more since then," says Pratt. "It is very cold. At my house it was eight below zero Wednesday night. Not a lot of stripping is possible in such cold."

A new sucker control product: Plucker-Plus from Drexel contains Sucker-Plucker and Drexalin Plus at a four to one ratio, providing both the contact activity of fatty alcohols and the local systemic activity of flumetralin. Labeled for all types of tobacco, it is available in 2.5 gallon jugs or 265-gallon totes. A jug provides the right rate for one acre of tobacco. Plucker-Plus is MH free and compatible with current spray schedules. 
N.C. Extension specialist appointed: Matthew Vann will begin serving as Extension tobacco crop science specialist for North Carolina as of March 1, pending completion of his degree requirements. During his studies, Vann has served as an Extension associate with the N.C. State University crop science department. A native of Florida, Vann will be stationed in Raleigh.

A variety that holds: Marcus Lee of Johnston County, N.C., said at the Southern Farm Show that the relatively new flue-cured variety from Cross Creek Seeds, CC 143, holds extremely well in the field. "It is compares to K 326  in holdability," he said. "It will hold longer than most varieties. That gives you longer to harvest your crop." It also grows fast and cures well.

A burley auction in Asheville: For one of the few times in recent memory, western North Carolina had a burley auction this past marketing season. It was held in downtown Asheville in the Planters Tobacco Warehouse. Owner Billy Anders held four sales days, and about a half million pounds were sold. The best crops brought about $1.46 a pound, while lower quality sold for $1 a pound, he says. Every lot attracted a bid, and all bids were accepted. "We had two or three buyers at every sale," Anders says. Anders ended his sales in early February.

Some of the leaf sold in Asheville was produced in excess of a contract, while some was produced without a contract, says Anders. He says he may conduct an auction for the 2015 crop but thinks getting a company buying station would be a better strategy. One dealer is considering locating a station there. There are now no burley receiving stations in western N.C. The Burley Stabilization Corporation facility in Greeneville, Tn., and the R.J. Reynolds station in Rogersville Tn., are the nearest stations.

The burley crop in western N.C. was unexpectedly good considering the weather problems. This region suffered from the same frosts and-or freezes that afflicted many other tobacco areas the weekend of November 1, says Extension Burley Tobacco coordinator Stanley Holloway. But as far as Holloway knows, no tobacco remained in any mountain fields by that time. There may have been damage to leaf that was already in the barn, but it was not significant, he says.

An oversupply of sweet potatoes? Sweet potatoes held a lot of appeal for N.C. tobacco growers a year ago when a record 72,000 acres were planted in the state. More will likely be planted this year, but Sue Johnson-Langdon, executive director of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, says, "We just hope growers don't over calculate the numbers it will take to meet the demand. It would be easy for our growers to plant too many acres."
Best-ever black shank resistance: A new fire-cured variety could help growers in Kentucky and Tennessee deal with black shank. "KTD14LC may be a good choice for hotter black shank fields," says Kentucky-Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist Andy Bailey. "It has the best black shank resistance we have ever had in a dark variety." Rickards Seeds says KTD14LC's resistance level to Race 0 black shank is 10 and to Race 1 is 5. The variety was developed as part of the Kentucky-Tennessee cooperative breeding program.

Could humic acid help? The humic acid product Actosol improves the soil and makes nutrients more available, says its manufacturer ARCTECH.  "You can foliar spray it or apply it through drip irrigation," says Dennis Bickel, ARCTECH sales manager. "It can lower your dependence on other fertilizers." All fields will benefit, he says. "But your lowest performing fields will see the biggest impact. We guarantee that your production will increase if you use it, so  you can't lose."

Involvement in the industry: Zack Morris of Colerain, N.C., completed the 2015 NC State Tobacco Short Course earlier this month. "It was a good experience," he says. "I met a number of farmers and also individuals in the tobacco industry. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to be involved in tobacco activities." Like most Morris and his father Jim are growing less tobacco this year. But the flue-cured growers consider themselves fortunate because the reduction isn't too big. Morris and the other Short Course participants were recognized at the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. annual meeting at the Southern Farm Show. (For a full listing, see TFN February II.) Also at the annual meeting, the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. announced its award winners for 2015:
  • Distinguished Service--Lobbyist Patrick Ballantine of Wilmington, N.C.;
  • Extension Service Award--Tyler Whaley of Wayne County, N.C.;
  • Outstanding Director--Brent Adcock of Person County, N.C.
  • Farm Family of the Year--The Whitaker Farms of Randolph Co.: Richard and Faylene Whitaker and sons Shane and Travis.
The Tobacco Farm Life Museum of Kenly, N.C., also presented awards at the Southern Farm Show:
  • Innovative Young Farmer of the Year Award--Peyton McDaniel, Billy McDaniel and Phillip Watson of Hickory Meadows Organics, Whitakers, N.C.
  • Excellence in Agriculture Award--Joseph Priest, agriculture research specialist, N.C. State Crop Science Department..
And Governor Pat McCrory presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine to long-time tobacco specialist W.K. "Bill" Collins. The order is conferred by the governor on outstanding North Carolinians who have a proven record of service to the state.

Welcome to the February III issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. For more information, you can call me at 919-789-4631 or email me at Thanks--Chris Bickers

Cross Creek

Friday, February 13, 2015


These greenhouses in east Tennessee will be seeded soon. 
But how many more will be needed?
The U.S. flue-cured crop in 2014 was in excess of 500 million pounds,
said Tim Yarbrough, president of the Tobacco Growers Association of 
N.C., at the association's annual meeting on February 6. How much in 
excess? Yarbrough calculated that if, as has been reported, North Carolina
marketed 440 million pounds in 2014, then beltwide production would have 
been 515 to 520 million pounds. That definitely exceeded demand. "It 
is estimated that the amount of contract issued last year was in the range 
of 460 to 480 million pounds," he said. "Obviously, we over-produced, by 
perhaps as much as 13+ percent."

To make the situation even worse, "A mega volume of inventory 
from China has [apparently] been offered to the global marketplace 
at a super-discounted price," said Yarbrough. It is in all likelihood 
filler style leaf that does not normally compete head to head with anything 
produced in America. "But at a bargain price, it most certainly can be 
described as 'usable' and therefore likely having influence on our current
set of circumstances," he said.

Bad news from South of the Border: Brazil overproduced in 2014 and 
has an accumulated inventory of more than 300 million pounds.
"That [inventory][ing] its way into the global marketplace," said 
Yarbrough. "We also hear that the current crop [2015] in South America 
[including Brazil] is too large, which further contributes to the 
oversupply situation."

The predicament for American burley: Tobacco companies only 
need around 170 to 180 million pounds of burley leaf from this past 
season, but growers produced around 200 million pounds or higher.
Will Snell, Kentucky Extension economist, said last week that production 
will still likely be greater than anticipated use, explaining the lower prices. 
In 2015, excess world burley supplies and slumping demand will likely 
induce tobacco companies to reduce contract volumes in the U.S. and 
South America in 2015, Snell said. Cheaper international leaf, combined
with an appreciating U.S. dollar, may reduce the competitiveness of U.S. 
burley in international markets and overall export volume may decline. 
There has been a lot of volatility in prices this last growing season, Snell 
said, as the market has gone from "somewhat of a seller's market" to 
"more of a buyer's market."

Dark outlook a little brighter: The 2014 U.S. dark fire-cured crop is 
expected to total around 50 million pounds, with the 2014 U.S. dark air-
cured crop totaling around 15 million pounds (just slightly above last 
year's levels), said Snell. Expansion in smokeless tobacco consumption 
appeared to slow in 2014, but the current supply/demand balance for dark 
tobaccos indicates relatively strong leaf prices for the current crop--$2.65 
to $2.70 per pound for top quality dark-fire and $2.35 to $2.40 per pound 
for dark-air.

There are some other demand factors that could still favorably affect 
2015 production of flue-cured and burley. Regular sources tell me China 
apparently intends to buy a little more U.S. flue-cured this season. 
As reported in the last issue, there is apparently a little more demand for 
U.S. organic tobacco, partly from the traditional buyer, Santa Fe 
Natural Tobacco, and partly from a new company, Swiss Organic 
Tobacco Co., which has reportedly bought U.S. flue-cured and burley 
leaf to make an organic cigarette for sale in the European market.

Weather could affect our competition: In Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi 
have clearly suffered losses as a result of intense rains, which may improve
our competitive position. But there is still much confusion as to how much. 
One flue-cured grower--Portia Gurira of Beatrice, Zimbabwe--told 
the Zimbabwe Herald that she planted her crop late due to the late rains. 
"We planted late and a mid-season dry spell affected the crop, and 
this reduced yields significantly. [Now] we have a late crop. We started 
reaping yesterday [February 11]. Last year, during the same period, we 
were already curing." 

Malawi's yield will be less than half of last year's, according to Afriem
an online website specializing in news on Malawi. "Erratic winds and 
cyclones destroyed many of the fields of this country," Afriem reported. 
"Additionally, poor distribution of subsidized fertilizer also resulted in stunted 
growth of tobacco in some of the country's districts." Malawi's production is
 primarily burley."

In Zambia, which neighbors both Zimbabwe and Malawi, the experience 
for the coming crop has run parallel to what American farmers are facing. 
Albert van Wyk, general manager of the Tobacco Association of Zambia, 
told Tobacco Farmer Newsletter on February 11, "Merchants have given very 
strong indications here that only contracted tobaccos will be bought," said 
Van Wyk. "Lower plant positions are unwanted." The rains that have 
so damaged the Malawi and Zimbabwe crop have not affected Zambian 
tobacco, Van Wyk says. "We haven't had any floods! We had a very dry 
start to the season, but in the last five weeks rain has not been in short 
supply." Zambia produces burley, flue-cured and fire-cured.

So how much will Americans produce? On February 2, just before the 
annual meeting, Universal Leaf issued its final estimate for 2014 and its 
initial projection for 2015. For flue-cured, it estimated that 525 million 
pounds were produced last year and 485 million pounds would be 
produced in 2015. That would be a decrease of only eight percent, 
low compared to almost all other projections. It estimates 2014 
American burley production at just under 200 million pounds and 
projects 2015 production at 176 million pounds, an 11 percent 
decrease, which again is a more optimistic figure than has been 
going around.

In other news from the TGANC Annual Meeting:

A group of 38 young tobacco growers and agriculture professionals 
participated in the 2015 N.C. State Tobacco Short Course, which 
concluded at the TGANC meeting. "Since the tobacco industry faces 
continuous change, we need to make sure our younger farmers, their 
advisors and other allied industry representatives are able to focus on how 
to attain efficient quality tobacco production," says W.K. "Bill" Collins, the
retired director of N.C. State Tobacco Extension program. Co-directing
 the program with Collins was Loren Fisher. The Short Course was conducted 
by the N.C. Tobacco Foundation in partnership with the College of Agriculture 
and Life Sciences at N.C. State University. It was funded with a grant by the 
N.C. Tobacco Research Commission from the 10-cent per hundred pounds 
of tobacco sold via a self-assessment paid at the point-of-sale. Out-of-
state participants pay their own expenses. This year's group was the most 
diverse yet, including participants from Louisiana, South 
Carolina and China, though the majority were North Carolinians. 
Following are the participants:

--FARMERS: N.C.--Zach Morris of Bertie Co.; Hunter Walters of Bladen Co.;
 Channing and Grayson Foley, of Columbus Co.; Will Brinkley of 
Davidson Co.; Taylor Fitzpatrick and Taylor Ray of Franklin Co.; Daniel 
Watkins of Harnett Co.; Jason Barbour, Blake Thomas, and Chance Thornton 
of Johnston Co.; Bryan Salmons of Nash Co.; David Thomas of Person Co.; 
Kevin Dixon and Derick Lasley of Rockingham Co.; Zack Boles of Stokes 
Co.; and Rob Fulghum, Patrick Owens and Thomas Webb of Wilson Co. Out-
of-state tobacco farmers: Brothers Alan Gravois, Jr., and Brandon 
Gravois, both of St. James Parish, Louisiana; Tim Griggs of Hartsville, 
S.C., and Ben Teal of Patrick, S.C.

--GOVERNMENT: N.C. Department of Agriculture--Mike Wilder, 
regional agronomist; Jonathan Barbour, field crop supervisor of the 
Central Crops Research Station at Clayton; and Tobacco Technicians 
R.T. Elliott, Robert Overton and John Shotwell, all of the Oxford 
Tobacco Research Station at Oxford. Cooperative Extension 
Service--Jarrett Hurry of Bertie Co.; Gary Cross of Granville Co.; and 
John Ivey of Guilford Co.

--INDUSTRYCrop Consultants--Carson Barnhill and John Hoffner of 
Carolina Precision Consulting of Wake Co; Scott Uzzell of Fowler Crop 
Consulting, Inc. of Halifax Co; and Sarah Arthur of Jones Co. Tobacco 
Services--Cory Wade of Coastal AgroBusiness of Greenville. N.C. State 
University Student: Hailey Askew of Nash Co. Note: Zanhoug Gan of 
China Tobacco International, Raleigh, N.C., also participated in 
the event.