Saturday, July 4, 2015

USDA Projections: Flue-cured down 16%, Burley down 17%


Acreage projections plus estimated change for 2014

  • U.S.--206,800 acres, 16 percent below 2014.
  • North Carolina--160,000 acres is 16 percent below 2014.
  • Virginia--19,500 acres, down 13 percent.
  • South Carolina--14,300 acres, down nine percent.
  • Georgia--13,000 acres, down 13 percent.
  • U.S.--84,000 acres, down 17 percent from last year.
  • Kentucky--62,000 acres, down 18 percent.
  • North Carolina--1,100 acres, down 21 percent.
  • Ohio--1,900 acres, down five percent.
  • Pennsylvania--4,700 acres, down seven percent.
  • Tennessee--13,000 acres, down 16 percent.
  • Virginia--1,300 acres, down 13 percent. 
  • Fire-cured (Kentucky/Tennessee/Virginia)--17,450 acres, down six percent.
  • Dark air-cured (Kentucky/Tennessee)--6,200 acres, up one percent.
  • Cigar types (Connecticut/Massachusetts/Pa.)-4,500 acres, down six percent.
  • Southern Maryland (Pennsylvania)--2,000 acres, no change.

ALL U.S. TOBACCO is projected at 320,950 acres, down 15 percent. Note that acreage is down in all producing states.


North Carolina--The flue-cured crop is generally looking good, says Matthew Vann, Extension tobacco specialist. It came through the worst of the drought and temperature extremes. But scattered areas of the east still need rain. Some are well past the topping stage. Some may have already begun harvesting in Pitt and Green County, he says. "I know of a few more who will begin harvesting this week." The USDA plantings estimate of 160,000 acres of flue-cured in N.C. seems reasonable to Vann... In Person County, in the Piedmont, tobacco is looking very good, says Extension agent Gary Cross. But later plantings are drought stressed.

Georgia--Recent rains have been a blessing in Coffee County, says Extension agent, Mark von Waldner. "Very timely rain fell this week. Farmers are applying herbicides and fertilizer and [there is] no major disease to report. Sucker control with maleic hydrazide is going on. There is some sunscald and more black shank disease than normal." Coffee County is between Albany and Waycross.

Virginia--In Lunenburg County, tobacco looks goodoverall, says Lindy Tucker, Extension agent. "Some of the late [tobacco] and organic [tobacco] is uneven but overall good. Flowering has started, and everyone will be topping soon. We are getting lots of rain--and not complaining at all!"

Kentucky--The crop has gotten off to a reasonably good start, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "It was very wet this past week with almost daily chances of rain, and the rain was pretty widespread. We may see some problems of wilting and scalding later as a result." More rain is projected for much of the state next week. Transplanting appeared complete by July 1, although there may be a few stragglers. There is a lot of unevenness in the fields, but so far, there are no confirmed reports of blue mold in the field. "And we have been looking for it," says Pearce...Pearce is a bit skeptical about the USDA burley acreage prediction of 62,000, which would be down 18 percent from 2014. He thinks it will be more like 58,000 acres in Kentucky, a drop of nearly 25 percent.

Tennessee--Rains came in time to get the burley crop off to a good start, says Rob Ellis, director of the Tennessee AgResearch Center in Greeneville. "We were extremely dry in much of May and part of June. It was reaching the point where it could be hurtful. But then we began getting rain two weeks ago, and things are looking good now. But there is a 70 percent chance of rain every day next week, so we could get some problems because of that." Transplanting ran late at the station, wrapping up on June 25. June 15 would have been the normal date. The weather wasn't so much the problem as was an outbreak of blue mold in one greenhouse on the station grounds at the beginning of June (see TFN, June I 2015). All the plants had to be destroyed, and it took some time to replace them.  Ellis says there has been no further incidence of blue mold.

North Carolina--Transplanting lasted a little longer than normal in the mountains of western North Carolina. Ernest Harmon of Elk Park said last week that he hoped to have his planted by July 1. That would not be too late in the high altitude where he farms. "I have set tobacco on July 10 and still made a good crop," he said. A USDA report said that 92 percent of N.C. burley had been set by June 28. The five-year average for that date is 99 percent...Burley was a great crop for farmers in the Carolina mountains for many years, says Bill Harmon of Sugar Grove. Now he has retired, and almost everyone else has gotten out of the crop. "In Watauga County [which used to be a major producer], I know of only one acre being grown," he says. The difficulty of getting contracts was the last straw for many growers, he says.

Virginia--Temperatures above 90 degrees have slowed growth, and new plantings of tobacco have scorched in the heat and been re-set, says Scott Jerrell of Scott County in the southwest corner of the state. The USDA estimated that 93 percent of the Virginia burley crop had been set by June 28, compared to the five-year average of 97 percent.


I recently had the great pleasure--and great challenge--of writing a book about tobacco. Specifically, burley tobacco. And even more specifically, the burley tobacco of what you might call the "Southern Tier" of American burley. Entitled The History of Burley Tobacco in East Tennessee & Western North Carolina, it proved to be a fascinating experience. I learned a lot: Just to give a good example, I had never known that these two states produced a substantial amount of flue-cured in the years just before burley caught on. That production is commemorated to this day by the many old abandoned furnace-and-flue barns that can be found beside country roads, especially in Madison and Buncombe Counties, N.C., and Greene County, Tn. But the most interesting part for me was meeting and interviewing 13 veteran burley growers to find out in an oral history context what had been the most memorable aspects of burley in their lifetime. It's the core of the book and the part I am proudest of. As one of the farmers said, "Our life would have been okay without tobacco, but it wouldn't have had any of the frills. It would have been just the basics." In other words, there would have been a life without burley, it just wouldn't have been much fun. There are several other sections: Sociologist William Jarrett describes how burley growers reacted to the buyout; farm technician Charles Click, recently retired from the staff of the Tennessee AgResearch Center, recounts the momentum that lead to the foundation of that great research station in Greeneville, Tn.; and my co-author and good friend W.W. "Billy" Yeargin Jr. describes the tobacco auction system and how it helped in the development of the tobacco economy. If any of you think you might like to have a copy, call me at 919-789 4631 or contact me via e-mail at The price is $21.99 plus $2.75 postage, unless you need really fast delivery. To give you a better idea of what it is like, I will publish some excerpts in a coming issue of TFN.--Chris Bickers


  • July 16. South Carolina Tobacco Tour, Pee Dee Research & Education Center, Florence, S.C. Contact: J. Michael Moore at 229-386-3006 or
  • July 20-21. N.C. Tobacco Tour. Begins at 3 p.m.July 20, Edwards Farm, 200 Salem Church Rd., Wendell, N.C., followed by a Welcome Dinner. The tour will begin on the morning of July 21 with a tour of research at the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station near Rocky Mount followed by a tour of research at the Oxford Tobacco Research Station.Contact: Mina Mila at 919-513-1291 or
  • July 29. Annual Tobacco Research Field Day. Southern Piedmont AREC, Blackstone, Va. Registration begins at 5 p.m., followed by dinner. Tour will begin at 6 p.m. Contact: Margaret Kenny at 434-292-5331 or
  • July 30. Kentucky Corn-Soybean-Tobacco Field Day, UK Research & Education Center, Princeton Ky. Contact: Andy Bailey at 270-365-7541
  • August 3-4. Burley Tobacco Industry Tour, Lexington, Ky. On August 3, beginning at 1 p.m., participants will tour research at the Spindletop Research Farm, 3250 Ironworks Pike.  There will be a sponsored dinner. On August 4, participants will tour are farms and see research at the Woodford County Farm, ending with lunch at the Woodford County Farm. Contact: Bob Pearce at 859 221 2465 or




    209 Harding St., Danville, Ky.

    Full-service burley warehouse

    Jerry Rankin, Owner

      Call for information.


    1723 Goldsboro St. SW, Wilson, N.C., 
    in the old Liberty Warehouse

    Greg Goins is the auctioneer at Big M Warehouse.
    We hold sealed bid auctions
    We promise 
    We will be GAP certified 
    For more information, contact Mann Mullen at 919-496-9033 
    or the warehouse switchboard at 252-206-1447.

    1 comment:

    1. Thanks for sharing this information. Hopefully the FDA doesn't regulate nicotine for e-cigs so much that it decreases the sale of tobacco, and that goes for taxes. Hopefully they can leave all that alone as it will only hurt the economy!