The USDA Prospective Plantings Report for 2011 projected a slight increase in flue-cured tobacco acreage and a three percent decrease in burley tobacco plantings when it was released March 31. Both projections were lower than what tobacco professionals in the producing states were estimating. For instance, one economic report for North Carolina said the most likely scenario for flue-cured was an increase in contracting of 10 million pounds, roughly five percent, while a burley cooperative leader told Tobacco Farmer Newsletter that burley acres would be up 10% or more based on what growers were saying.
Highlights of the USDA report: Flue-cured--Up one percent from 2010 intentions at 213,000 acres. Among individual states, acreage in North Carolina is up one percent, and Georgia and Virginia expect increases of five percent and six percent respectively. South Carolina acreage is expected to decrease by nine percent from last year. Burley--Down three percent from last year at 94,750 acres. This would be the lowest burley acreage on record, lower than the previous record of 97,500 acres in 2008. Acreage in Kentucky is expected to decrease by seven percent from a year ago, while Pennsylvania is up 19 percent, Tennessee is up 13 percent, Virginia is up three percent, and North Carolina is about the same. Ohio projects the biggest decrease at 28 percent. Fire-cured tobacco--Up four percent from 2010 at 16,250 acres. Growers in Tennessee expect acreage to remain unchanged from last year, while acreage in Kentucky is expected to increase from last year by eight percent. The small acreage in Virginia is expected to decrease by 15 percent at 550 acres. Dark air-cured tobacco--Down seven percent from last year at 5,100 acres. Kentucky acreage is projected down five percent, while Tennessee acreage in is expected to decrease 18 percent. Cigar tobacco--Down 21 percent at 4,410 acres. Among the individual types, cigar filler is down 19 percent, cigar binder is down 25 percent and cigar wrapper is down 12 percent. Southern Maryland--Up 36 percent from 2010 at 3,000 acres. Note: This information is drawn from the April issue of The Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. To get on the mailing list to receive it directly, email firstname.lastname@example.org and say "Subscribe."
Note 2: A farmer reader took me to task shortly after I mailed the newsletter, saying I was too skeptical about the USDA estimates, at least in his area. "Chris, I’m going to say that in far west Kentucky, burley will be more like 10-15 percent down;.dark fired, no change, and air cured, no change."