Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Burley stripping
Workers strip burley in Milton, N.C., near Danville, Va. 
Is burley production headed up? The farmer cooperatives seem to think so. The Kentucky-based burley cooperative plans an increase in purchases for 2014. "Our goal is to increase the volume we have under contract for 2014," says Steve Pratt, general manager, Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association (BTGCA) in Lexington, Ky. "This is definitely the direction we want to go in." The Tennessee-based burley cooperative will likely seek more tobacco too, as it responds to a world market for flavor burley that has been very strong for several years, says Daniel Green, chief executive officer of Burley Stabilization Corporation. "We want to buy more tobacco if we can get it grown, and we expect to be competitive in price." 

The geographical service area for the Tennessee burley cooperative has grown in recent years. In addition to its traditional states of Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia, it also has growers in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin. But if the cooperative seeks to increase production in 2014, it will probably be through existing farmers rather than new ones, says Green. 

New delivery stations: To handle the larger crop that was expected expected in 2013, the U.S. Tobacco Cooperative (USTC) opened new marketing centers in Smithfield, N.C., and Oxford, N.C. Four were already operating in Nashville, Ga.; Mullins, S.C.; Wilson, N.C., and Danville, Va. All six will be in operation again in 2014, says Tommy Bunn, USTC president. BSC is contemplating opening another delivery station, probably in Kentucky. "As it stands now, some of our growers have to drive quite a way to get to our facilities in Springfield and Greeneville, Tn.," says Green.  

It was a good year for the flue-cured cooperative. USTC paid its members the highest patronage dividend in its history: $.245 per delivered pound. That was 88 percent higher than the previous year. Dividends are paid on the basis of the fiscal year. "This indicates that we had an excellent crop and that the cooperative was able to sell it for a profit," says Bunn. "Another factor was that our consumer products--cigarettes, small cigars and cut tobacco--also did well this year." But Bunn says the flue-cured cooperative hasn't yet made a decision on expansion.

A chance for good answers to tough production questions appears on tap at the North Carolina Tobacco Day program this Thursday (December 5) from 8 a.m. till 12 p.m. at the Johnston County Extension Center in Smithfield, NC. Among the topics: How to achieve MSPA and H-2A compliance; what is the assessment of energy use in new curing barns; are rotations available that will reduce Palmer amaranth; what competition can we expect from e-cigarettes; and several others, concluding with N.C. Extension economist Blake Brown's take on the tobacco outlook for 2014. 

The birth of a new burley area: Since deregulation, a small but significant growth of burley has sprung up in Wisconsin. "Most of the growers are Amish," says Green. "They do well. They are looking to grow more." According to another report, about 20 Wisconsin growers experimented with Southern Maryland this year.

How to control Palmer's amaranth: It's a more important concern now since China complained earlier in the year that seed of this weed, along with crabgrass, foxtail and some others it doesn't like. Spartan could be the ace in the hole since it gives very good control. Aim and Prowl are also effective. Judicious cultivation also helps, and if you get your top and sucker crew to pull them up by hand, that increases the control. The Cadillac treatment is deep tillage with a moldboard plow which can reduce pigweed by about 50 percent, says Vann. Combine it with Spartan and you can get as much as an 80 percent reduction. But deep tillage is expensive, maybe $33 an acre more compared to shallow tillage, says Vann. The best way to keep Palmer's amaranth seed out of tobacco is not to plant it tobacco in infested fields in the first place. What tobacco is most vulnerable to Palmer's seed contamination? Flue-cured that is mechanically harvested, says Vann. Note: Vann will address this topic further at N.C. Tobacco Day.

A report on tobacco in Pennsylvania: The 2013 crop in the Keystone State could end up being a good one. "The first half of the season was wet, beginning at transplanting," a leaf dealer in Lancaster told Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. "That pushed the crop back two weeks, but that wasn't a problem. Once the rainy period stopped, we had spotty rains here and there, which helped. When the tobacco got in the barns, it cured a little quick, but that didn't end up being a problem either." Industry estimates of production are: Pennsylvania seedleaf (Type 41), 3.7 million pounds. Southern Maryland (Type 32), 6.5 million pounds, down two million pounds from 2012. Burley, 13 million pounds, up perhaps a million pounds over last year.

Mark your calendar--Southern Farm Show, February 5, 6 and 7, N.C. Fairgrounds, Raleigh, N.C., including the annual meeting of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., on Friday, February 7.

A request from the editor to Extension specialists and anyone else holding GAP meetings: Please send me the dates and places and I will publicize in future issues.--Chris Bickers

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