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//go.ncsu.edu/collins_initiative 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."
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."
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NORTH CAROLINA (Burley)