Sunday, March 19, 2017


A newly seeded greenhouse near Raleigh, N.C.


The Type 14 crop is going to the field early. There was essentially no winter in Georgia and Florida, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. "We had very few days when the temperature fell below 32 degrees." As a result, plants have been making fast progress in the greenhouse. "Some plants are running away from us. A few farmers may have begun transplanting already. I am expecting a lot of the crop to go to the field in the next two weeks."

No need to wait till April 7? The recommendation most years is to delay transplanting until April 7 or later because there tends to be less incidence of tomato spotted wilt virus after that date. But because of the weather, that may not be the case this season, says Moore. "Alternate host populations as well as thrips populations are already high."

If you plant early, though, Moore advises doing the best job possible of suppressing TSWV with Actigard and Imidacloprid. 

No transplanting yet of flue-cured in North Carolina, but plants are progressing well in greenhouses. "It might be the best plant-growing season in many years," says Matthew Vann, specialist with the N.C. Extension tobacco team. "Thanks to the mild winter [until March 12], the N.C. flue-cured crop was seeded earlier than normal. Seeding is in fact substantially complete across the state, although there may be a few unseeded greenhouses remaining in the western Piedmont."

Variety distribution in N.C. flue-cured appears to be roughly the same as last year, says Vann, but there was a lot of interest in the new variety NC 938. "Growers looked long and hard at NC 938," he says. "It has strong black shank resistance and good yield potential." He thinks it will play a large part in N.C. flue-cured production in the future.

Just a few greenhouses have been seeded in Kentucky. "We may have a few plants breaking through but not many," says Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "Even though the 2016 season did not go well for many Kentucky growers, the feedback I am getting is that most of them are trying to grow another crop." 

There doesn't seem to have been much shifting among varieties, except that a few more are planting the relatively new KT 215 because of its resistance to black shank and fusarium wilt, he says.

Should farmers sell finished products?
Two opinions

The U.S. Tobacco Cooperative Inc. (USTC) in Raleigh, N.C., recently purchased a N.J. cigarette manufacturer, King Maker Marketing Inc. of Paramus, through its consumer products division, Premier Manufacturing of Chesterfield, Mo. The acquisition added four brands to USTC's consumer products portfolio. 

"Each of the brands has a solid sales history and consumer following," said USTC Chief Executive Officer Stuart Thompson. "The addition of these nationally recognized brands to our portfolio allows us to increase market share in our category and expand distribution due to our larger sales and marketing organization." 

Earlier in 2016, USTC announced that Premier is now supplying Circle K convenience stores in 40 states with its cigarette brand Traffic.

Soon after the price support program ended, USTC (formerly Flue-Cured Stabilization) tried marketing some of its farmers' leaf as finished products. The big step was purchasing a cigarette factory in Timberlake, N.C. About the same time, it bought Premier, and now it has bought King. All 

USTC brand cigarettes are in the value category, led by 1839, whose name commemorates the discovery of the bright curing process. The results have been good. As one source within the cooperative says, "We get high-quality tobacco from our growers, we make that leaf into a very tasty product, then we sell it at a price that is a value to consumers. The packaging and price bring them in. But the reason they come back is because they think the product tastes good."

The burley co-ops, on the other hand, focus entirely on leaf. The Burley Stabilization Corporation (BSC) cooperative in Springfield, Tn., experimented with manufacturing products for a few years but found it was just not right for them, says BSC leader Daniel Green. "We found that finished products were not the direction we needed to go," says Green. "We sold our interest in the finished product business so that we can fully focus on our leaf tobacco business. The way we look at it, there are people that are really good at finished tobacco products. We want to supply them with the best quality leaf possible and are not interested in trying to compete with them." 

And at Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association in Lexington, Ky., there was never much interest in manufacturing finished tobacco products, says Steve Pratt, general manager. "We concentrate on contracting, processing and selling leaf tobacco," he says.


KENTUCKY (Burley/Dark)

March 28, 6 PM. Laurel County Extension Office, 200 County Extension Rd., London KY. Contact Glenn Williams at or 606 864 4167.

March 30, 6 PM. Warren County Extension Office, 3132 Nashville Rd., Bowling Green KY. Contact Joanna Coles at or 270 842 1681.


Note: The contact for all MD-PA meetings is Jeff Graybill, Pennsylvania Extension, Lancaster County, 717-394-6851. 

March 27, 9 AM. Ira Hertzler Farm, 28379 Thompson Corner Rd., Mechanicsville, MD.

March 28, 9 AM. Garden Spot Fire Rescue, 369 East Main St., New Holland PA.

March 28, 1 AM. Garden Spot Fire Rescue, 369 East Main St., New Holland, PA.

March 29, 9 AM. 172 South Lime St., Quarryville, PA.

March 30, 9 AM. Turbotville Community Hall, 41 Church St., Turbotville, PA.

March 29, 1 PM. 172 South Lime St., Quarryville, PA.

Farm Family Life Museum


Friday, March 3, 2017


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How to move plant trays around easily. Craig West of Fremont, N.C., and his wife Nell stopped to look at a plant tray conveyance at the Wilson Manufacturing exhibit at the Southern Farm Show. Said G.H. Wilson, "It is 20 feet long and holds 240 trays and is built so you can easily access the trays once you arrive."


Why burley growers are reluctant to buy: Rod Kuegel, who grows dark and burley near Owensboro, Ky., attended the Tobacco Show in Lexington, Ky., on January 19 and 20 and didn't notice many burley and dark growers seeking to make major investments in new equipment. "We had such a damaged crop from water in 2016 that growers are a little reluctant to make big purchases."

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Welcome to the February II issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. If you haven't signed on to receive the newsletter regularly or need to change an address, please click on "Join our mailing list" and follow the prompts. For more information, you can call me at 919-789-4631 or email me at Bickers

Too much rain in July: Weather conditions last summer certainly didn't lead to enthusiasm for purchasing  machinery. George Marks, who grows dark and burley near Clarksville, Tn., attended the Southern Farm Show. In an interview during the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. meeting on the Show's last day, he said the 2017 dark crop in Tennessee and Kentucky was one of the worst ever. Burley there finished badly too. "There was too much rain in the month of July. Much of both crops drowned out. A lot of us should probably look for better-drained soils to plant dark tobacco on."
The yield was way down on burley at about 1,400 pounds per acre, said Marks, who is the president of the Burley Stabilization Corporation cooperative (BSC). A normal burley crop would yield 2,200 to 2,400 pounds per acre. Dark yielded about 2,400 pound per acre. Compare that to a normal yield of about 3,300 pounds per acre, Marks said. Dark did better at the market. "The outlook for dark is good right now," said Marks. "Snuff sales are still trending upward."

Cleaning trays with steam: Craig West of Fremont, N.C., stopped by the Long Tobacco Barns exhibit at the Southern Farm Show. He'd bought a Long Steaming Eagle tray steamer and expected to begin running it soon, probably four times a day, steaming 2,400 trays a day. That's enough to fill a 200-foot greenhouse. "We were forced into using the steamer, but it has proved better than methyl bromide. It does a better job of dis-ease control, but methyl bromide was easier to use." NOTE: More on the new steamers and the new easy-to-clean plant trays will appear in the next issue.

Who knows how many sales will be made? Tom Pharr of MarCo Manufacturing said his trip to the show had not been very encouraging. "The traffic was not heavy. But you never know: I have 'priced' everything I have, and who knows where that will lead?" Probably the most interest at the MarCo booth was in the harvesters, but not by a whole lot. "Also, our curing controls have attracted attention," said Pharr. "I think we will make some sales."
No falloff for some companies. "We have more orders than we had at this time in 2015 or 2016," said Mack Grady, president of Cureco in Seven Springs, N.C., in an interview as the Southern Farm Show. "That's a surprise to us, since we are doing the same things we did in those years." But it could just be random. "It certainly seems like this season will likely be down in production," he said.

Leadership in farm labor recognized: The president of the North Carolina Growers Association, Len Wester, received the President's Award for Leadership from the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C at its meeting on February 5. Other award recipients included: Distinguished Service Award: Zane Hedgecock, chief of staff, N.C. Department of Agriculture. Extension Service Award: Matthew Vann; Lifetime Century Member: Marion Hawkins Jr. of GoldLeaf Seed; Farm Family of the Year: The 

Isley Family Farms, Rockingham County; and Outstanding Directors for 2017: Brent Leggett, Nash County and Randy Smith, Lenoir County.
A young farmer and a farmer organization leader were honored at the annual "Breakfast with the Commissioner" held by the Tobacco Farm Life Museum on February 5 in Raleigh at the Southern Farm Show. Brandon Batten of Four Oaks, N.C., was named "Innovative Young Farmer of the Year", sponsored by the Farm Credit Associations of North Carolina. Jimmy Gentry, president of the N.C. State Grange, received the Excellence in Agriculture Award, sponsored by Wells Fargo.
A short course to update young N.C. growers and others on the realities of 21st Century tobacco production: 46 young N.C. tobacco growers, Extension agents, research station managers and technicians, and agronomists participated recently in the 2017 N.C. State Tobacco Short Course in Raleigh. It was conducted by the N.C. Tobacco Foundation with the N.C. State University College of Agriculture. Funding for the program was provided by the N.C. Tobacco Research Commission and the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. Participants were:
  • Farmers: Scott Edwards--Bladen Co.; Brent Watts--Columbus Co.; Adam Fulcher--Craven Co.; Nick Suggs--Greene Co.; Blake Roberson and Robert Turner III--Martin Co.; Adam Matthews and Anna Jackson--Moore Co.; Kendall Parker--Orange Co.; Worth Williams, Willie Dixon, Matt and Jon Grady, Chase James and Daniel Tyson--Pitt Co.; Mike Angell--Rockingham Co.; Jerry and Josh Manuel--Stokes Co.; Steven Evans, Jr., Vance Grady, Justin and Rex Price--Wayne Co.; Jennings Hinnant, Patrick and Marsha Robbins--Wilso Co.; Ben Hobson -- Yadkin Co.
  • Extension:  Bart Baumgarner--Orange Co.; Blake Sandlin--Duplin Co.
  • NCDA Agronomists: Josh Mays--Region 9, and Carla Pugh--Region 1.

  • NCDA Research Station personnel: Phillip Winslow, Thomas Stroud, Evan Taylor--Lower Coastal Region; Alex Addison--Upper Mountain Research Station; John Erick Freeman--Mountain Research Station.

  • Agribusiness Entities: Ernie Hiatt and Cameron Shelton, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco. Tim Jackson--Crop Consultant; Ryan Lambert--Coastal Agro; Brandon Cole--Helena Chemical, and Bryan Hicks--Meherrin Ag.