Thursday, October 22, 2015

FROSTS FINISH OFF MOST REMAINING FLUE-CURED


Leaf

Really ripe: Flue-cured leaf grown at the Oxford, N.C., tobacco research station cures in a traditional furnace-and-flue barn on the grounds of the North Carolina State Fair. The leaf was grown to reach maturity on October 16 and was overripe. Volunteer teams tied the green leaf on sticks in the Fair's annual stringing contest. 

Killing frosts in the Southside of Virginia on October 18 and 19 brought an end to the tobacco season for nearly all the state. "There is very little left that we can pull and harvest now," said David Reed, Virginia Extension tobacco specialist. After several years when the first killing frost fell relatively late, these occurred at what is about the historical average date, if not a little earlier. "But the severity of the frost was the problem more than the timing," says Reed. "There were temperatures as low as 26 degrees." His best guess is that about 400 barns of flue-cured were lost, maybe 1¼ million pounds. That would be about two percent of the expected Virginia flue-cured crop.

There were frosts and freezes 
in North Carolina, too, that ended the growing season for many flue-cured growers. But there will be more still harvested and cured than in Virginia. "Sunday, Monday morning and a little on Tuesday morning, we had temperatures in much of the state of 27 and 28 degrees," says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. That was the case almost everywhere that tobacco is grown in the state, with the exception of southeastern N.C. It is unclear how much flue-cured will still be harvested. "As of Monday, October 12, it appeared that at least 10 percent was left in the field, but now, 10 days later and with the cold weather, I could only guess that maybe five percent is still out there," says Vann.
A team strings flue-cured leaves on a stick in a
contest at the N.C. State Fair.

It was a difficult season. In Oxford, N.C., north of Raleigh, it started off wet, then
.
turned dry. "When we started harvest, the ground leaves were not good at all," says Carl Watson, 
tobacco research specialist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture tobacco research station in  Oxford.  "We started irrigating, trying to get the sap back into the leaves." The second and third pullings cured better, but then the rain started falling late. "The crop took up fertilizer and it turned green. "Now he is trying to catch up. There is still a lot in the field. "I have filled all the barns we have," he says. "I need one more, and I don't have it. Other than that, the only effect of the rains (around October 1) was that we had to sit out a week without harvesting"...Watson and his staff grew the leaf used in the stringing contest at the N.C. State Fair October 16. "We kept that tobacco alive by watering it a lot. Extra nitrogen would have been a strategy but we didn't need it." 

In the state hardest hit by raining and flooding at the beginning of October, Ben Teal of Patrick, S.C., whose farm is in northern S.C., expected to finish harvest on October 16. He had one more barn in the field at that time. "It was a very late harvest, and then we got all that rain, maybe nine inches here. Fortunately, the majority of the crop was in barns when the flood came. About 10 barns of my tobacco was still in the field at that time." On those fields, half the stalk was still out there--the third and fourth croppings. He lost two to three barns as a result of all the water. "It was very hard to harvest," he says. "I had five tractors bogged up trying to harvest last week." He harvests by hand. "I usually pull two boxes down the sled row. But I had to do with just one after the rains." When leaf started pouring out of the fields after it finally dried up, barn capacity proved inadequate. "One of my neighbors has a lot left in the field and not enough barn space to cure it all," Teal says. "I'm letting him use three of my barns to keep his harvesters rolling." But it has been a tough year, he says. "It's the worst since I took over this farm. I've made good pounds, but the quality is poor. The grades were just not there." It wasn't just the rain. "We had extensive heat earlier. The leaf was sunbaked from the high temperatures."

Tobacco harvest is complete in the Owensboro, Ky., area where Rod Kuegel grows dark and burley. "It is all is in the barns," he says. "Larger growers have started stripping. The quality is decent, but the weight is off considerably. Burley may be down 20 to 25 percent. The dark types are not down as far but are still reduced, maybe 15 to 20 percent." The weather was a big problem all season. "We had two extremes--very, very wet and very, very dry. It was wet till August, but then there was no more rain after that. I was very concerned about our burley, but everything we have stripped has looked good so far."

OPINION


TPP: Why some think tobacco growers should favor it
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)--the multinational trade treaty--has been signed by negotiators from all the nations involved in its creation. But it still must be approved by Congress, and tobacco-state legislators have vowed to oppose it because it would leave cigarette manufacturers little protection against regulation. This has exasperated many in Washington, including Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who can't understand why anyone would oppose it. "The challenge is to make sure they fully understand that tariffs are being eliminated on tobacco, which will expand opportunity for our producers to sell to Japan, to the Malaysian market, to the Vietnamese market. Market access is going to be greater. (As to the carveout), it's simply an acknowledgement of what already exists, that there are a number of public health laws in countries that have to be respected. That is not much different than what we have in the United States. What is (being) lost in this conversation is that tariffs are being eliminated on tobacco products so for producers in the U.S. there is greater market access."

TPP: Why some think tobacco growers should oppose it
Roger Quarles, a Georgetown, Ky., burley grower, explains why the carve out could be very damaging to tobacco growers: "The Trans Pacific Partnership will damage the ability of the purchasers of our burley to protect their market share in affected countries. The tobacco product manufacturers have invested heavily in creating trademark brands that use our burley. They deserve every legal right to protect the identity of those brands. Our tobacco growers' sales depend on the good fortune of our purchasers. Public-health policies in some countries are targeted at American blend cigarettes with little sound science to support those policies. Poorly disguised attempts in the name of social health reforms will create a precedent to eliminate trade in several other of our agricultural commodities, all in the name of improving public health. Any consumer who has decided to enjoy tobacco products is doing so knowing all the risks. We should not accept having the playing field tilted against us."

DATES TO REMEMBER
  • December 3. N.C. Tobacco Day 2015. Johnston County Extension Center, 2736 N.C. Hwy. 210, Smithfield, N.C. Starting time to be announced.

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