Burley: Transplanting was getting under way in Kentucky and Tennessee as May began, says Paul Denton, Kentucky - Tennessee Extension specialist. "It's going well, but we could use some rain. I would hate for the crop to get behind this early." There was a little more spiral root in the greenhouse than normal because of heat early in the season. "But we should have enough transplants to go around," he says. Among varieties, KT 206 and KT 209 are very popular, "and we still see a lot of KY 14 x L8 on farms that don't have race one black shank." There is also some KT 210 and some TN 90, he says...In southeastern Virginia, burley plants are almost ready to set, says Danny Peek, Virginia Extension burley specialist. "They are little earlier than normal. It was warm and they grew quickly. A few farmers may have started transplanting this week. More will start next week. We should be okay as long as it doesn't turn off wet. We might be looking at a lot of clipping if transplanting is held up." The outlook for mountain burley seems pretty good now. "Every grower who wanted a contract got one. The demand for what we grow here is pretty good." But in the non-traditional burley areas of Virginia--almost all of which are in the flue-cured growing Southside--will probably plant no more acres than last year, and maybe a little less, Peek says...The closing of the Altria station in Midway (near Greeneville, Tn.) hasn't seriously disrupted plantings in east Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Peek reports that R.J. Reynolds took up some of the slack left by the Altria closing and Burley Stabilization took up some also. A few growers were willing to take the long trip to deliver at the Altria station in Danville, Ky., and stayed with the company, says Peek. Despite the Altria station closing, it looks as if demand may be seeing toward leaf from this area. "There has been a shift in preference among cigarette manufacturers in favor of the Appalachian style of leaf," says Denton.
Flue-cured: Transplanting is well over half finished in North Carolina, says Loren Fisher, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "We could use some warmer temperatures, but for the weather we have had, we are doing reasonably well." He expected about 75 percent of the flue would be planted by the end of the weekend. He is not ready to estimate flue-cured acreage in N.C. but doesn't think it will be down six percent, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected at the end of March. "If it is down, it isn't down much," he says. "I expect we will be close to last year's plantings"... Virginia growers have a way to go, but plantings are complete in Florida and Georgia... Transplanting will probably be complete in South Carolina by the time you read this, says Dewitt Gooden, S.C. Extension tobacco specialist. The season was been largely problem-free so far in S.C. "There was a threat of frost in places, but I don't think there was any damage. A few farmers had some wind damage but that was about it. At the station in Florence, our tobacco is about 2 ½ weeks along, and we just side-dressed this week. A lot of our farmers are farther along that that." The supply of plants available for S.C. growers was tight but Gooden says the thinks everyone was able to get what they needed. He knew of only one grower who was seriously short of plants at setting, and he was able to find plants elsewhere. "I think we were able to plant all we wanted to plant," he says.
In other news...
No news on USGD: A spokesperson for U. S. Growers Direct wrote on April 24 stating the company's intention to "have a press conference in approximately a week" and that it is "in the process of finalizing and working out final details for the 2012 Tobacco Season." I have not heard from anyone at USGD since then and indeed have nothing new to report except that reliable sources have told me that the father-son leaf-dealing team of Bill and Jay Barker now are involved in the company. I don't know exactly they are doing. Bill Barker has a long career in leaf marketing at the management level, while Jay Barker was most recently the principal in J.E.B International, one of the parties to the joint venture to procure U.S. leaf for JTI. As I learn more I will share it.
Another monitor for your farm? Reynolds American Inc. has told groups representing migrant farm workers that it will use an indepen-dent, third-party monitor to assess working conditions on farms it contracts with. RAI also proposed formation of a council that would involve manufacturers, growers, the N.C. Labor Department, gricul-tural scientists, and farm workers, among others. "Formation of such a council...might well make a significant contribution to the improvement of worker safety and living conditions," said Daniel Delen, RAI chief executive. Delen seems anxious to find some method of conciliation to resolve this troublesome public relations issue, but public comments from opposing parties make progress seem unlikely. One of them, Minor Sinclair of Oxfam America, claimed the tobacco industry "systematically exploits farm workers' fears of arrest and deportation to deprive them of their basic, nternationally recognized human rights." You can read an earlier postition statement on this subject on RJ Reynolds' website at www.rjrt.com under "More Key Issues."
Getting out because of GAP? Nearly 70 percent of county Extension tobacco agents who participated in a survey conducted by the Center for Tobacco Grower Research [CTGR] thought before the season that some growers in their county would exit tobacco production due to GAP requirements. "On average, the agents estimate 9 percent of growers will exit, representing 41 percent of acreage in the survey," says CTGR. For more information, go to the website http://tobaccogrowerresearch.com and click on "Survey Snapshot."
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