Monday, October 31, 2016


Who does WHO think it is? Earlier this month, a delegation of members of the International Tobacco Growers Association led by Daniel Green of Springfield, Tn. (above center, wearing plaid shirt and navy jacket), demanded the opportunity to observe WHO deliberations on a tobacco-related treaty. The effort failed but it is hoped the message got across. (Photo provided by ITGA. Note: Just to Green's left is ITGA c.e.o. Antonio Abrunhosa, in tan jacket, dark tie.)

Fighting for tobacco India: A delegation of tobacco growers from six countries, including the United States, traveled to Greater Noida, India, recently to be part of demonstrations organized by the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) against the World Health Organization, which was holding a meeting of its tobacco treaty ratifying organization. Led by its president Daniel Green, the chief executive officer of Burley Stabilization Corp. of Springfield, Tn., growers demonstrated outside the meeting facility, demanding inclusion in the debate of this and any issues that affect their livelihoods. The farmers were denied a chance to participate and were even detained briefly by the police. 

Why our farmers were there: "We're seeking a civil dialogue about issues that affect more than 30 million farmers and their families around the world. We have repeatedly been denied our right to be heard," said Green, who was assisted by BSC director Barry Bush of Cookeville, Tn. "Growers understand the need for tobacco regulation. But such regulation should be rational and science-based. Instead, we see extreme, emotion-driven proposals that only result in missed opportunities to protect public health and provide alternative economic opportunities to tobacco-dependent farm families and their communities."

Why WHO wouldn't let them in: The head of the UN Tobacco Treaty Secretariat, when asked why tobacco farmers had never been involved in the ratification process, said they didn't belong there! "I have seen the tobacco farmers, and they always try to manipulate," said Vera da Costa e Silva. "Even if they are brought on table, they are not on the table and always think about the profits. [Also] they bribe. So sometimes it's difficult to actually let them participate."

Not surprisingly, the ITGA representatives hit the ceiling, saying Costa e Silva demonstrated a lack of knowledge (and, apparently, any interest) in the plight of farmers. "The U.S. government is the top contributor to the WHO," Green said. "[We have] hundreds of millions of dollars of [Ameri-can] taxpayer money funding an organization that operates undemo-cratically, behind closed doors." Not only did WHO exclude tobacco farmers and other stakeholders from the conference, it also prevented news media from observing the deliberations.

Editor's Note: What is the world coming to if we have international bureaucrats making policy affecting farmers who don't believe farmers should be concerned about making a profit? And the treaty that is causing all this fuss--the the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control--has numerous negative tive implications for your operation. There may be some relief on the horizon: The FCTC has not been ratified by the U.S. yet. Well, let me see what I can do. I will research this topic further and have more for you in my next issue, roughly two weeks from now.

New ITGA leaders: Green was elected president of ITGA in October. Also elected: Reuben Maigwa, Malawi, vice president; Tsveta Filev, Bulgaria, treasurer; and Anthony Neill Ford, Zambia,  chairman, African region.


  • December 1. N.C. Tobacco Day 2016. Johnston County Extension Center, 2736 N.C. Hwy. 210, Smithfield, N.C. Meeting starts at 8:15 a.m. and ends with lunch.
  • January 11-12. S.C. Agribiz and Farm Expo. Florence (S.C.) Civic Center.
  • February 1-3. Southern Farm Show. N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, N.C.
  • February 3. Annual Meeting, Tobacco Growers Association of N.C., Holshouser Bldg., N.C. State Fairgrounds. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., ending with lunch (during Southern Farm Show).

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Burley wilting on sticks in the field before transportation to curing barns. This file photo was taken in Macon County, Tn., near Nashville, in October 2014.
Burley production will fall well below USDA's original expectation, which was about 150 million pounds. Steve Pratt, general manager of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association in Lexington, Ky., says it might end as low as 110 million pounds. His counterpart in Springfield, Tn., Daniel Green, chief executive officer of Burley Stabilization Corporation, says, "If I had to guess, I would say around 120 million pounds beltwide. I don't think it will be any more than that." The USDA is more optimistic: In its most recent projection, dated October 12, the figure was 143 million pounds. 

Way too much water: For burley growers, 2016 will be remembered as the year of too much water. "Much of the season was exceptionally wet for burley growers," says Green. "A lot of burley had to be bush hogged because of water damage. Then about the time it finally dried out, the weather turned exceptionally dry." There will be a relative shortage of lower stalk leaf because much fell off in the field as a result of the wet weather, he says. In many cases, the rest of the stalk was affected by fungal diseases. The upperstalk may not have as much of the brown to red color buyers like. "We will likely see a lot of bright color resulting from the dry curing season," says Green.

Perhaps a third of the burley crop in Tennessee has been stripped, says Green... Burley cured in outside curing structures seem to have produced some of the better-colored leaf so far this year, perhaps because the leaf has been exposed to more ground moisture, says Green... Some farmers in Kentucky couldn't get their burley in the barns fast enough, says Pratt. "It was starting to cure out when they cut it. They couldn't wilt it as long as they wanted"...Central Kentucky on the whole had better weather than western Kentucky which received more rain, says Pratt...East Tennessee had dry weather much of the season, says Eric Walker, Extension tobacco specialist. "A lot of the tobacco was adversely affected by disease, and some was significantly hurt by dry weather. But some did get timely rains and looked pretty good."

This year's burley should sell well. But will demand go unmet? Demand for American burley has been estimated at 150 million pounds, and there will definitely be a shortfall. But both burley cooperatives and most leaf companies dealing in burley have inventory left from previous crops, says Green. "The inventories could
mostly cover the shortfall." Certain stalk positions may be hard to find, including tips, red-leaf and flyings, he says. Another reason for scarcity--the short burley crop in the U.S. is following a short burley crop in South America.

Bitter truth for flue-cured growers:  Nobody likes sunbaked leaf. Flue-cured growers generally got their crop planted last spring in good order (though Piedmont growers had to plant around periods of rain and wound up with some of their production planted very late). The season was going well until extreme rain affected middle growth, followed by day after day of 95-degree temperatures. "That sunbaked the top of the plant, and unfortunately for us, no one wants sunbaked leaf," says one observer. Foliar diseases were a big problem, also.

Still taking flue-cured: Two of the U.S. Tobacco Cooperative marketing centers are still receiving leaf: the La Crosse, Va., facility, which will finish on November 9, and the Kernersville, N.C., facility, which will finish on November 11.

New varieties from Rickards--Rickard Seeds is introducing three new flue-cured varieties this season: PVH 1600 features dual resistance to black shank Race 1 and 0 compounded with Granville wilt resistance. PVH 2254 features resistance to Granville wilt, TMV and dual resistance to black shank Race 1 and 0. It is a high-yielding, late-season variety that has gained worldwide popularity. NC 938 is the newest variety from N.C. State University's breeding program and features high yields, black shank Race 1 and 0 resistance, and intermediate Granville wilt resistance. It will be jointly marketed with the other major seed producers.

  • December 1. N.C. Tobacco Day 2016. Johnston County Extension Center, 2736 N.C. Hwy. 210, Smithfield, N.C. Meeting starts at 8:15 a.m. and ends with lunch.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Burnt tails, green butts--You saw a lot of this late in the season in North Carolina, thanks mainly to a period of intense dry heat.

The tobacco season of 2016 came to nearly its end with a really big storm when Hurricane Matthew blew through on October 8. The leaf that was still out there was subjected to torrential rains and whipping winds and worse, flooding later. But not much was left in the most affected state, North Carolina. And not any was still out in South Carolina, Georgia or Florida. The only state that still has significant tobacco in the field, Virginia, suffered much less damage from the storm.

Matthew damage minimal: In North Carolina, the effects of Hurricane Matthew on tobacco in the coastal plain were minimal, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "We had advanced warning, and farmers made a mad dash to get their tobacco out before it arrived. I don't think we will wind up seeing much loss from the hurricane." A few farmers reported losses in the barn because of power outages and the wet conditions ..."Only about one percent of the crop was still in the field," says Vann. Fortunately, there has been no early frost, he says, and the weather since the hurricane has been very mild. So the rest of the crop should be harvested very soon ...In the Piedmont, the hurricane caused even less damage. "We are seeing that the quality of the late crop there has been better than we might have expected," he says. Flue-cured growers will have an acceptable average yield, says Vann, but he thinks total production in the state may not reach the 346 million pounds that USDA projected last week. "It could be as low as 325 million pounds," he says.

No significant flooding: In Virginia, the rain was steady and prolonged in the 48 hours associated with Matthew. "We got five to seven inches in Pittsylvania County," says Stephen Barts, Extension agriculture agent for the county. "But there wasno significant flooding. We didn't have the standing water they had in North Carolina." The main effect was that Virginians lost three or four days in the field at a time when they could ill afford it. Now, he calculates that about a quarter of the farmers in his area still have tobacco in the field, and some still have a way to go before finishing it. "We may see some harvested on November 1, if Jack Frost doesn't get it first," he says. "But most should be finished this week and most of the rest the next week, again depending on frost."

Burley states warm and dry: In Kentucky and Tennessee, the problem has been unseasonably warm weather and extended drought. "For all practical purposes we have finished harvest," says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "Labor has been the main issue. It's been a struggle for some to get this crop hung. But there is very little burley out there now that is still worth harvesting." The earliest planted crop is curing real well, he says. But there are some concerns about the later crop. It was deteriorating in the field. "Because of the warm October, we may not have too much green. But the late-harvested burley may be brighter than we like." Yields will be below average, and Pearce thinks USDA has overestimated U.S. burley production. "I don't think we will reach 143 million pounds. I think 125 million pounds is more realistic" ... It has been very dry in Tennessee too. "We are the driest I have ever seen in Knox County in October in the 25 years I have lived here," says Neal Denton, Knox County Extension agent ...In southwest Virginia, rain from the hurricane provided some moisture. But it was very sporadic, says Scott Jerrell, Extension agent in Scott County.


  • North Carolina--346.5 million pounds, down 8.4 percent. Yield 2,100 pounds.
  • Virginia--52.8 million pounds, up 6.8 percent. Yield 2,400 pounds.
  • South Carolina--31 million pounds, up 19 percent. Yield 2,300 pounds
  • Georgia--29.7 million pounds, minus 8.4 percent. Yield 2,200 pounds.
  • U.S.--460 million pounds, down 5.3 percent. Yield 2,150 pounds.
  • Kentucky--22.8 million pounds, down 28 percent. Yield 2,400 pounds.
  • Tennessee--18.5 million pounds, down 22.2 percent. Yield 2,650 pounds.
  • Virginia--594,000 pounds, up 3.3 percent. Yield 2,200 pounds.
  • U.S.--41.9 million pounds, down 25.3 percent. Yield 2,501 pounds.
  • Kentucky--110.2 million pounds, up 5.6 percent. Yield 1,750 pounds.
  • Tennessee--17.4 million pounds, down 19.4 percent. Yield 1,450 pounds.
  • Pennsylvania--11.5 million pounds, up 6.5 percent. Yield 2,400 pounds.
  • Virginia--2.1 million pounds, down 10.1 percent. Yield 1,800 pounds.  88h
  • North Carolina--1.7 million pounds, down 8.1 percent. Yield 1,900 pounds.
  • U.S.--143 million pounds, down 1.1 percent. Yield 1,747 pounds. 
  • Pennsylvania--3.8 million pounds, up nine percent. Yield 2,400 pounds.
  • Kentucky--8.6 million pounds, down 37.1 percent. Yield 1,800 pounds.
  • Tennessee--2.76 million pounds, down 18.1 percent. Yield 2,300 pounds.
  • U.S.--11.4 million pounds, down 33.1 percent. Yield 1,900 pounds.
  • Pennsylvania--3.84 million pounds, up two percent. Yield 2,400 pounds.
  • 664 million pounds, down seven percent. Yield 2,063 pounds.


Monday, October 3, 2016


A quarter or more of Virginia flue-cured remained to be harvested on October 1. Here, workers put leaf in balers on a farm near Skipwith, Va.

GEORGIA & FLORIDA--The last of Georgia's tobacco was expected to be harvested by today. Florida's harvest was finished several weeks ago. Serious problems were experienced with tomato spotted wilt virus and black shank this season. But J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist, says this was not the worst season for Deep South tobacco. He estimates that Georgians might average 2,100 pounds per acre on 13,000 acres, putting production in the range of 27 million pounds. Floridians may have averaged 2,600 pounds per acre on around 1,500 acres. for about four million pounds production...This was one of the worst years for tomato spotted wilt virus in the last 10, says Moore. The likely cause: favorable conditions in the spring for plants that serve as host plants for thrips, which spread spotted wilt.
SOUTH CAROLINA--All South Carolina's tobacco has been harvested, says William Hardee, S.C. area Extension agronomy agent for Horry and Marion Counties. Most was finished the last full week of September. It has been wet. "It seemed we had a month when we were dry and then a month when we had nothing but rain." The rain was less of a problem because most was out of the fields when it started. The heat, on the other hand, brought on diseases. "Bacte-rial wilt was the big problem, along with black shank," he says. He adds that it appears the quality will be decent.

NORTH CAROLINA--Harvest continues at a very fast pace, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "It is extremely fast ripening, and now we are backed up against first frost." Hurricane Hermine and the rains that followed it caused some 'green up' in the east because plants got access to nitrogen, he says. "That might interfere with ripening, but on the other hand, it might lead to a little more holdability." The Piedmont got very little rain as a result of the hurricane and tropical storms, he says.

VIRGINIA--A quarter or more of the Virginia flue-cured crop remained to be harvested on October 1. "Parts of this crop are going to be very late," says David Reed, Virginia Extension tobacco specialist. "It had been very dry. We have had rain over the entire tobacco area over the last 10 days, and now our tobacco is respond-ing to the rain. Farmers hope for a late frost." Production might approach con-tracted poundage if farmers can harvest it all. The quality so far looks good.

The intense May rains in the Piedmont that brought trans-planting to a tem-porary halt really caused farmers a management prob-lem: They had what was essentially two different crops--an early one and a late one. "Farmers  found themselves having to cultivate one field and top another and prime still another, all at the same time," says Reed...The north end of the tobacco belt seemed to have had better luck with the weather, said Chris Brown, Franklin Co. Extension agent. “We got rain most of the season.”


KENTUCKY--A very hot and dry September made it difficult to harvest in the Bluegrass, and cutting and hanging was moving slowly in much of the state. Jerry Rankin, a grower and owner of Farmers Tobacco Warehouse in Danville, estimates that perhaps 80 percent of the burley crop is in the barn. "We will be short of what the trade needs, maybe by 25 percent," he says. "We had one rain in August, then it was dry until we had a few showers last week. This is a thin crop." He noticed that when you cut tobacco one day and left it in the field, it would burn by the next day. "It dang near 'field cured'," he says. The first tobacco he cut is nearly done, and he plans on starting stripping the day he finishes harvest.

TENNESSEE--From 90 to 95 percent of the Tennessee burley crop has been harvested, says Don Fowlkes, manager for agronomy for Burley Stabilization Corporation. "Despite the dry weather, the curing is mostly okay so far in East Tennessee. Some is a good solid color already. But we have a lot of disease in the lower stalk positions." It was dry the whole season long but the crop could still turn out well. Market preparation could get going in earnest soon. Fowlkes knows of one farmer in southeastern Tennessee who started stripping last week. He is the first one Fowlkes has heard about. In middle Tennessee, there was so much rain in the early season to late July, then it got dry in August. The leaf is more thin bodied and the tips are ragged. The quality will be better in the upstalk rather than downstalk.

NORTH CAROLINA--Cutting and hanging in western N.C. seems to be complete, but no one is stripping yet. "It has been extremely dry," says Stanley Holloway, N.C. Extension burley coordinator. "But the crop was deep rooted so when it got some rains late in the season, it responded well. Now, it has ended up a pretty decent crop." But there could be a danger of flash curing if it continues dry," he says.

BLACK PATCH--Harvest of dark fired and dark air in Kentucky and Tennessee is almost over. "We are all but done," says Andy Bailey, Ky./Tn. Extension dark tobacco specialist. "The few remaining fields will be harvested this week." Quite a bit of this tobacco had to be harvested early because of angular leafspot and bacterial soft rot. "This is the worst crop I have seen in the 14 years I have been here in Princeton, Ky.," Bailey says. "We will probably fall 25 percent short of our potential." But the quality of the cured tobacco, which is just now being stripped, looks satisfactory.

VIRGINIA--Harvest of dark fire-cured was complete in September, with curing reportedly proceeding well. But it was a tough season. In Appomattox County, conditions were excessively wet through layby. "Then the rain stopped," says county Extension agent Bruce Jones. The drought wasn't broken until September 19. It was the first substantial rainfall in over two months.