Thursday, October 1, 2015


Workers harvest flue-cured leaf near Yadkinville in the Piedmont of North Carolina (file photo).

Slow development of bottom crop: Flue-cured deliveries in August and early September were very light, says Graham Boyd, executive vice president of the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. "Many of our farmers have just finished marketing the bottom half of their crop last week," he says. "That's late for us." But he anticipates 90 percent of the crop will be delivered by the opening of the N.C. State Fair onOctober 15, more than had been delivered on that date a year ago.

After several days of 105 degree heat, real skill had to be applied to curing this year's flue-cured, says Boyd. "Even veteran growers who had cured many crops did not have enough' notes in the Rolodex' to figure out how to cure this less than desirable leaf," he says. But they seem to have done fairly well, judging from the leaf that's coming to the market," he says.

In Eastern North Carolina, the season started out with seven inches of rain associated with Tropical storm Ana. "Luckily I hadn't fertilized," says Danny Sykes of Lenoir County, N.C. "After the rain, we put out our fertilizer, then it turned off dry and didn't rain again until the tobacco was a foot high. That slowed us down." They still had some tobacco in the field as of September 21. "That is late for us," he says. The rain picked up at the tail end of the season. "We had a little black shank late but the crop has weighed good except for the first pullings. From the cutters up, it has been pretty good."

A sucker control chemical that combines fatty alcohols with flumetralin made sucker control a little easier in dry mid season of 2015. "Plucker-Plus from Drexel was convenient and it worked as advertised," says Sykes of Lenoir County. "I was well satisfied with it." Before Plucker-Plus became available, Sykes' program was two applications of a contact, then one of flumetralin. "This year, I made one application of the contact, and then I was able to skip the second and instead finish with Plucker-Plus," he says. "It saved on contact application." Plucker-Plus is made up of Sucker-Plucker (fatty alcohols) and Drexalin Plus, a flumetralin formulation, in a four to one ratio. 

After extreme rainfall earlier, it has been very dry in the Bluegrass, says Roger Quarles, a burley grower from Georgetown, Ky. "Except for showers on September 25, much of the burley crop has gotten no rain in the past month," he says. "We have finished with harvest, but curing this crop is a real challenge. On my farm, we have closed up all but one of our barns to hold in moisture. We will do what we can, but this crop won't have the dark color that we like to see. It's going to be light colored." The yield will also be affected. "When the rains stopped, the crop was plenty tall enough and had plenty of leaves. But since then it has lacked the moisture it needed to fill."
The first burley cut in East Tennessee will soon be cured, says Eric Walker, Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist. Curing conditions have been satisfactory and good quality is hoped for. There is more concern for the burley that is still in the field should the weather turn cold and dry. That could result in flash curing. But not a whole lot remains to be harvested. "We are over half way done with barning, and it may be more like three quarters," Walker says. "We are on the backside now."
Heavy early rains in many parts of Tennessee lead to problems with bacterial soft rot that were significant in some burley fields, says Walker. "There was some leaf loss. Target spot was also bad in some areas. A number of fields got blue mold throughout the season, but farmers reacted proactively with fungicides, and with the help of dry conditions, yield losses from this disease were minimized. Most sightings were in or near Greene County, where the initial outbreak was discovered.

Reynolds American has sold the international rights to the Natural American Spirit brand name and the international companies that distribute and market the brand outside the U.S. The buyer is Japan Tobacco and the value is approximately five billion dollars. It was not immediately apparent whether the NAS factory in Oxford, N.C., will produce all or any of the cigarettes JTI will sell. Watch for more details in coming issues of TFN.
How you can have a say in the N.C. research referendum. "I read in your newsletter about the referendum on continuing the N.C. tobacco research and education checkoff," writes Shannon Boswell of Selma, N.C. "How can I make sure I get the opportunity to cast a ballot? I totally agree with the research fee. This is the one deduction from my tobacco check that I know what the money is going to and agree with." But she is not so sure about the other two tobacco checkoffs for N.C. farmers.
  • Tobacco Associates, Inc., for instance. "From a news article I found online, I see where it was started in the Forties, so it has been around a long time," she says. "But I have also spent time looking online and through the information sent to me, and I have been left with no answers as to what the fee they deduct truly goes towards, or how that amount gets determined and approved.  Can we request refunds? If so, what is the process?"
  • She also doesn't understand the assessment for the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. "It stated in its Spring 2015 Newsletter that its checkoff was voted for and approved by 80 percent of the flue-cured growers in the state, yet I never received anything in the mail and was not part of a vote," she says. "Several other farmers told me they had no knowledge of the vote either.  Does that mean I was an automatic yes vote if I did not participate? With this difficult tobacco season, I guess we have started paying more attention to the details of everything coming out of our checks, and want to learn more."
Editor's Note: You came to the right place. I am very familiar with all three of these organizations, and I think I can answer all your questions. First, let me say that refunds can be requested for all three checkoffs. There is a time limit, so if you are thinking about doing this, look into it soon. I believe for all three the deadline is 30 days after your last sale. But I can't say I recommend doing so--all three entities do what they set out to do, and considering that the cost is very economical, I would say growers are getting a bargain. But suit yourself. Following are the individuals you would need to contract for more information or to request a refund, along with some additional details on their fund-raising efforts. Note that the research referendum applies to all N.C. tobacco growers, the Tobacco Associates referendum is for flue-cured growers in all producing states and TGANC represents only N.C. flue-cured growers.
  • Tobacco Research Check-off: Contact Keith Oakley, president, N.C. Tobacco Foundation, which administers the checkoff, or 919-515-9262. On November 19, you can cast your vote for or against the research referendum at any Extension office in a county with significant tobacco acreage. To vote on the 10 cents per 100 pounds assessment, you must share in the risk of the costs of production for flue-cured or burley tobacco. 
  • Tobacco Associates: Contact Veronica Martins, office manager, Tobacco Associates, 919-821-7670 or TA uses grower checkoffs from all the flue-cured states to fund export promotion and expansion programs. It must be revalidated in a referendum every three years, and the next one will probably be in January 2016. Details have yet to be worked out. The check-off amount is one fifth of one cent per pound, or 20 cents per 100 pounds.
  • Tobacco Growers Association of N.C.: Contact Graham Boyd, executive vice president, TGANC, 919-614-0099 or Unlike the other two but like most other agricultural commodity associations in this state, TGANC doesn't need reauthorization by growers to continue collecting the checkoff, which is ten cents per hundredweight or about $2.30 an acre. The original referendum was conducted in the spring of 2014, and 88 percent of the roughly 400 farmers who cast a vote voted yes. Should you seek a refund? I am afraid I can't be objective on that question. I was one of the founding members of TGANC, and when I think about how much of my adult life I spent trying to get a grower assessment for the organization, I find it more than a bit traumatic to think that anyone would not think it was money well spent. But if you think it, you think it, and you can call Graham Boyd and debate the question further.

Bigger is better
 How burley bloomed in the Blue Ridge

For an easy-to-read account of how burley came to east Tennessee and western North Carolina in the late 1800s, along with oral history interviews with some of the best of the older generation burley farmers, and much more, order The History of Burley Tobacco in East Tennessee & Western North Carolina by Billy Yeargin and Christopher Bickers. Send a check for $25 to Chris Bickers, 903-9 Shellbrook Ct., Raleigh, N.C. 27609. Questions? Contact Bickers by phone at 919 789 4631 or via email at

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