Wednesday, July 11, 2018


 A migrant crew tops a field of flue-cured tobacco near King in the Old Belt of North Carolina. File photo by editor Chris Bickers.

GEORGIA-FLORIDA: It has been wet in Georgia and Florida, but that hasn't stopped a few growers from beginning harvest. "It has just been on a small scale," said J. Michael Moore, Ga. Extension tobacco specialist. "I expect it to get going in earnest this week." The crop isn't pretty at this time. "The rain damaged the lower leaves," he said.

KENTUCKY-TENNESSEE: Kentucky scientists didn't finish planting their demonstration plots at the University research farm in Lexington until July 5. That was several days later than expected because of excess precipitation. "We have had too much rain on this farm," said Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. There was 1.3 inches on Sunday (July 1) and a little more on Monday and Tuesday, making for a late crop. But UK didn't plant the last burley in the state. "We have a few farmers still planting. But the crop is pretty much set," said Pearce on July 7. "There has been heavy rain over many parts of the state, but it has been spotty. Topping is just beginning in some areas." Statewide, NASS reported that 16 percent of the crop had been topped, and two percent was in bloom. In neighboring Tennessee, meanwhile, NASS said five percent of the crop had been topped.

THE CAROLINAS: North Carolina/growers need more rain, said Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "Considering the stressors this crop has faced, it probably is better than it should be. The next 10 days will tell." Farmers, especially in the East, are well into sucker control. "A few growers have been harvesting for a week or two. That will pick up shortly." NASS reported that in South Carolina, 46 percent of the crop had been topped by July 9 and three percent had been harvested. Harvest will come later in the Piedmont. "Because of the weather, some farmers in the area were not able to transplant as early as they wanted to," said Vann. "An area along the Virginia border extending from Stokes to Granville counties got nine to 13 inches of rain in one week at the beginning of June. They got all their rain at once." Topping has started in almost all tobacco fields in Franklin County, N.C., north of Raleigh. "We are experiencing right much Granville wilt again in tobacco fields this year along with a little herbicide injury," said Charles Mitchell, Franklin County Extension agent. "There has also been a little wind damage to the tobacco crop."

VIRGINIA: Lunenburg County Extension agent Lindy Tucker said during the week of the Fourth that conditions had been dry for a few weeks following a wet early summer. "We received a good, much-needed rain Friday evening  [July 6] that  offered some relief from
the heat as well," said Tucker. "Tobacco is hold-ing," she added. In Greens-ville County, Extension agent Sara Rutherford said half the tobacco was flowering as of July 8. "Heading is anticipated in the next few days," she said. In Brunswick County, Ex-tension agent Cynthia Gregg said flue-cured pro-ducers were topping and applying sucker control. "A few have begun pulling lower leaves," she said.
CANADA: In Southern Ontario, most crops appeared to get off to a good start, according to a report from the Canadian Tobacco Research Foundation. The majority of the crop was planted in May, the report said, and cultivation began in mid-June. In the field, few problems have been reported except for some fumigant injury. Most growers will be topping soon.

Mitchell Richmond, who recently earned a doctorate in Integrated Plant and Soil Science from the University of Kentucky, has taken the position of team leader for the Canadian Tobacco Research Foundation, located in Tillsonburg. He replaces Dan Van Hooren, who retired. Richmond earned his bachelor's degree from Morehead State University in Kentucky. 


N.C. State will host two tobacco events in three consecutive days later this month. The first will be an:
  • Organic Cropping Systems Field Day, Monday, July 23, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Rob Glover Farm, 10762 Liles Rd., Bailey, in Nash County, N.C. The farm produces tobacco, sweet potatoes, tobacco transplants, sweet potato slips and broccoli.
  • The second will take place Monday 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. A Tobacco Curing Demonstration and UAV Diagnostic Overview will be held at Vick Family Farms, 11124 Christian Rd., Wilson.
  • The demonstration will be followed by a Reception from 5:30 pm to 7:30 p.m. at Wilson County Elks Lodge, 2814 Fieldstream Dr., Wilson, N.C. A cash bar will be open from 5:30 to 6 p.m., with food served around 6 p.m. 
  • A tour breakfast will be served Tuesday morning, July 24, from 8:15 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Oxford Tobacco Research Station, 901 Hillsboro St., in Oxford.
  • On Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., there will be a tour of the Oxford station departing from the Main Office Area at 9 a.m. Stops will include: sprayer cleanout/contamination issues, OVT/Minimum Standards program, drip irrigation demonstration, foliar fungicide efficacy trial, simulated drift of auxin herbicides, and herbicide screening evaluations followed by lunch on the grounds at 11:45 a.m.
  • The tour will depart Oxford at one and travel to the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station, 2811 Nobles Mill Pond Rd., Rocky Mount. ending with visits to  Research Plots, including: Black Shank OVT, OVT/Minimum Standards, organic nitrogen source evaluation, legume cover crop demonstration, and entomology efficacy trials. It will adjourn at 5 p.m.
  • Read more at: 

*Note: Hotels are available in North Raleigh (Crabtree Valley Mall area) and Oxford (I-85/Hwy 96 area) for those intending to stay in the area. Hotel blocks will not be reserved by NCSU. 

  • The Kentucky Burley Tobacco Industry Tour will be held on August 13  and 14, starting at 1 p.m. on the 13th  at the University of Kentucky Spindletop Research Farm in Lexington. On the 14th, the tour will travel to research and demonstration plots in Central Kentucky. 



EAST TENNESSEE: The end of transplanting burley should come in the next few weeks. "We are not finished now but should be soon," says Don Fowlkes, manager of agronomy with Burley Stabilization Corporation in Greeneville. "As of Wednesday, we were about three fourths complete, which is a little behind the calendar." A wet May delayed it getting in the field. "But now it is growing off nicely in most cases." There should be enough plants to service all the remaining acreage. "But plant supply was questionable at one point." In the neighboring burley states, NASS estimated that 57 percent of the burley crop had been planted in western North Carolina and 81 percent in southwest Virginia by June 10.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Planting has been complete in  for several weeks, says William Hardee, S.C. area Extension agronomy agent in Conway. "So far, the crop looks pretty good. Much of the crop has been laid by. Sucker control has begun. We have a good bit of tomato spotted wilt virus in some places but in others not so bad, along with some soilborne disease and water stress." All in all, at this point, a good crop should certainly be in reach as long as the weather cooperates, he says.

NORTH CAROLINA: In Lee County, the tobacco crop is coming on fast and looking good for the most part, says Zachary Taylor, County Extension agent, But spotty areas were lost or damaged due to drowning, he adds. In  Franklin County, disease started showing up last week, says Charles Mitchell, County Extension agent. "We saw some TSW and Granville Wilt showing up in some fields." 

BLACK PATCH: Fire-cured setting in western Kentucky and central Tennessee is probably 70 percent complete, while dark air-cured setting is about 75 percent, says Andy Bailey, K-T Extension dark tobacco specialist. There have been some major problems with pythium in the float beds and severe transplant shock in some fields where tender plants got very hot in dry conditions immediately after transplanting. "Those and other conditions lead to more hand resetting than we are accustomed to," says Bailey. "We got our first black shank samples confirmed this week on the earliest planted tobacco, which is about five to six weeks old." But none of these situations is bad enough that the crop can't grow out of it. The remainder of dark acres ought to be set by June 25, he says.

As everywhere else, acres are down in the Black Patch too, but not by too much, says Bailey. USST lowered contracts by about 14 percent, and American Snuff raised its contracts five to 10 percent.

The relatively new fire-cured variety, KT D17L appears to be doing well in its first full year in the field, says Bailey. It features the best available resistance to the two strains of black shank: 10 to Race 0 and 6 to Race 1.

Spread of dark types? There are persistent rumors that some farmers in central Tennessee are planting dark types on land that has not been in dark before, or at least not recently. But there is no information on how this tobacco will be marketed.

Alexander "Sandy" Stewart of Carthage, N.C., has been appointed assistant commissioner of agricultural services for the N.C. Department of Agriculture. "With Dr. Stewart's extensive research background, I expect he will bring outside-the-box critical thinking skills to challenges 
Sandy Stewart
our industry faces," said Steve Troxler, N.C. Commissioner of agriculture. Stewart comes to the department from Dow-DuPont and its cottonseed business, Phyto Gen. From 2011 through 2017, Stewart served as director of the NCDA Research Stations Division. Prior to that, he was an Extension specialist with NCSU's Crop Science Department. Stewart worked a few years with AgriThority in Kansas City, Mo. And prior to that, he served for eight years as a cotton specialist with Louisiana State University. Stewart earned bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees from  N.C. State University.


  • June 21, 8 a.m. Springfield, Tn. -Tobacco, Beef and More Field Day. Highland Rim Center. Trade show begins at 8 a.m., and first field tours begin at 8:45 a.m. off Oakland Road, ending at 12:30 p.m., followed by a complimentary lunch. Contact: 615-382-3130. 
  • July 23 8 a.m.-12 p.m. N.C. Organic Field Day, Nash County, N.C.
  • June 23-24 3-5 N.C. Tobacco Tour (Day One), Vick Farm, Nash County.
  • July 24, 8 a.m.-12 p.m. N.C. Tobacco Tour (Day 2 morning): Oxford Tobacco Research Station, 901 Hillsboro St, Oxford, N.C.
  • July 24,  2:30 p.m.-5 p.m. Upper Coastal Plain Research Station. N.C. Tobacco Tour (Day 2 afternoon), 2811 Nobles Mill Pond Rd, Rocky Mount, N.C. 

Monday, June 4, 2018


A no-till planter in action in south Central Kentucky. See story on conservation tillage below.
In Kentucky, burley growers are well on the way on transplanting, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "But we are slightly behind our normal schedule." The oldest fields are three to four weeks old. Some burley land is saturated but in other places it is pretty dry.

Conservation tillage continues to grow in popularity in Kentucky. "It may beapproaching 25 percent of the crop," says Pearce. There are several good advantages to conservation tillage. "But you have to remember that it requires a little higher level of management of the tobacco plus you have to manage the cover crop as well." The major benefit is improved conservation plus fewer trips across the field, he says. A special transplanter is needed, like the C&M Trium transplanter with a no-till option shown above.
In North Carolina, it has been rainy, especially in parts of the Old and Middle Belt. "Our research station at Oxford has had 10 inches of rain in the last few weeks," says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "About 90 percent of the flue-cured crop has been transplanted." The last 10 percent will be a challenge.
In Virginia, there was extensive flooding in the Southside, says Lunenburg County Extension agent Lindy Tucker. "Tobacco and grass are growing." In the Southeast, Brunswick County Extension agent Cynthia Gregg said, "Flooding was an issue early in the county. Fields were flooded along with approximately 28 roads beingimpassable. Several tobacco fields had some washes." Burley plantings for the state were estimated 58 complete, flue-cured 74 percent complete and fire-cured 63 percent complete.
The Georgia-Florida crop has been transplanted for about a month, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist, "Sucker control is beginning." Tomato spotted wilt has appeared. "But it looks like we are heading for an average year."...Moore believes that acreage in the two states is about like last year: 12,500 acres for Georgia, 1,250 acres for Florida.

Jennifer Atkins has been named Marketing Specialist covering the Southside of Virginia for the Virginia Department of Agriculture. Her work subjects will include flue-cured and dark tobacco in the Southside, and also some work with burley growers in Southwest Virginia. A native of Danville, Va., and a graduate of Averett
Jennifer Atkins
University and Green Mountain College, Atkins has most recently served as Agriculture Director for Tyton BioSciences in Danville. Atkins takes over the former post of Bill Scruggs, who is now Manager of VDACS Domestic Sales and Market Development in Richmond. He says he will still be involved with tobacco, but Jennifer will be the department's point person on leaf.

You are not yet done with GAP Connection meetings, but the remaining ones are strictly voluntary. From mid June to early August, GAP Connections will hold a series of 15 meetings to present information on safety and compliance. "This is a one-stop training offered to growers and workers," said Amy Rochkes, Training & Resource Coordinator with GAP Connections. "Workers can learn a great deal about safety and compliance in their native language (English and Spanish) directly from the professionals." There is no charge, but pre-registration is recommended. Visit or call GAP Connections at (865) 622-4606. A tentative schedule follows:
  • Monday, June 18, Grower's Warehouse, Tifton, GA, 9 a.m.--12:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, June 20, Safe Marketing, Mullins, SC, 9 a.m.--12:30 p.m.
  • Friday, June 22, Warren Farms, Newton Grove, NC, 9 a.m.--12:30 p.m. & 2 p.m.--5:30 p.m.
  • Monday, June 25, RC Commodities, Inc., Wilson, NC, 9 a.m.--12:30 p.m. & 2 p.m.--5:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, June 27, Roberts Farm, Lawrenceville, VA, 9 a.m.--12:30 p.m. & 2 p.m.--5:30 p.m.
  • Friday, June 29, Richmond Farms, Leasburg, NC, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. & 2 p.m.---5:30 p.m.
  • Monday, August 6, Murdock Farms, Murray, KY, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. & 2 p.m.--5:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 8, Harton Farms, Cadiz KY, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. & 2 p.m.--5:30 p.m.


  • June 11-13, Live Oak, Fla. Georgia-Florida Tobacco Tour, beginning with a 7 p.m. Kick-Off Supper at Brown Lantern Restaurant,  June 11.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018


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Young burley grows on a sunny day in a field near Cynthiana, Ky.


The threat of new Chinese tobacco tariffs may be gone--for now. A special envoy of China's President Xi Jinping said over the weekend that talks with U.S, officials ended with a pledge by both sides not to engage in a trade war, according to a Chinese news agency. The agency said China agreed to "meaningful increases in U.S. agriculture and energy exports," But tobacco was not specifically mentioned. Hopefully, that means no increases in tariffs on flue-cured exports, which is the type mainly imported by China.

But burley growers have had no relief from Alliance One International's (AOI's) decision to cease purchases of American burley. Eric Walker, Tennessee Extension specialist, says the big burley-producing counties of middle Tennessee -- Macon,Trousdale and Smith -- will clearly take a major hit. For the state as whole, he thinks we might possibly see an 80 percent crop, and it could certainly be smaller. The effect on burley plantings is still unclear, but no one doubts that Tennessee will be the state most affected.   

It has been a wet season in Tennessee up till now, he says, though it dried in some parts the past week. Walker advises growers not to start (or resume) transplanting too soon, especially if you are planting strip-till or no-till. "It is especially easy to set no-till too soon. Give the ground an extra day or two to make sure it is ready."
There doesn't seem to be a groundswell of Tennesseans planning to plant tobacco without a contract. And there is no news of any auction warehouses springing up that might sell "wildcat" tobacco. There haven't been any auctions in Tennessee in a number of years.
Macon County has been the number one burley county in Tennessee since soon after the buyout. It probably still will be this year, but it is facing a big cut in contracts. "We had 5,000 acres last year," says Extension agent Keith Allen, who is stationed in the county seat of Lafayette. "I am going to guess we will have 3,000 to 4000 acres this year, maybe closer to 4,000 than three. But that may be too optimistic. It is very hard to put a handle on it."

Efforts are going on to get a new company to contract from Holder's Tobacco Warehouse in nearby Hartsville, Tn, which had served as AOI's burley receiving station in Tennessee. But so far, no candidate has emerged, says Allen.

Setting has started in Macon County but is not far along. It was slowed by spotty rains that were heavy in some spots Thursday and Friday, Allen says.

In Kentucky, farmers have had a slow start on transplanting. A challenging transplant production season was part of the reason, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "We had more issues in the greenhouse than normal, primarily pythium and rhizoctonia damping off."

By the end of the season, there should be enough plants to supply the full Kentucky crop, but some growers may not get plants at the time they prefer, Pearce adds. Few plants are ready now, but some setting has taken place in Kentucky, though at a very slow pace.

News from the Carolinas and Virginia from the USDA's Crop Progress and Conditions report for May 13:
--In South Carolina, transplanting was 94 percent complete by May 13. "With warmer-than-normal temperatures and dry conditions, tobacco is beginning to grow off well," says Extension agent Kyle Daniel in Georgetown County. But inadequate topsoil moisture has been a concern
--In North Carolina, about 74 percent of the flue-cured crop had been transplanted by May 13. "Dry conditions are negatively affecting all crops, especially recently transplanted tobacco," says Don Nicholson, N.C. Department of Agriculture agronomist in the Coastal Plain. In Craven County in the east, warmer temperatures and lack of rainfall afforded opportunity for field work last week, says Mike Carroll. "Planting of corn and transplanting of tobacco are almost complete. In Granville County near Raleigh, "Transplanting continued with no problems reported so far other than being behind due to weather conditions earlier," says Paul Westfall, Granville County Extension.
--In Virginia, 37 percent of the flue-cured crop had been transplanted by May 13, compared to 18 percent of the burley crop and 20 percent of the small fire-cured crop. Extension agent Cynthia Gregg of Brunswick County in southeast Virginia says planting is going full swing and that tobacco there (mostly flue-cured) that has already been planted is coming along nicely.

  • June 11-13, Live Oak, Fla. Georgia-Florida Tobacco Tour, beginning with a 7 p.m. Kick-Off Supper at Brown Lantern Restaurant,  June 11.

PLEASE NOTE: I have a new email address both for the newsletter and for me. It is The old address ( is no longer functional. The telephone number remains the same--919 789 4631.--Chris Bickers

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


 Transplanting gets under way across the tobacco belt.
Flue-cured growers in North Carolina have transplanted in the ballpark of 15 to 20 percent of the crop, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "That is probably all in the East and southeastern part of the state. Little has been planted in the Middle and Old Belts. It has been too cold and way too wet."

Part of the problem has been night-time temperatures that have often been close to freezing, says Vann. "We need night-time temperatures of 60+ degrees, and we have not been close to that. But there has been no flooding. We are still good on time: Even if we didn't get most of the crop out till late April it would not be a concern." He estimated that statewide, the crop is a week or two behind.

East of Wilson, N.C., the crop may be later than that, says a leaf dealer. "To my eyes, we are a good three weeks late," he told TFN. "I have seen some tobacco get frosted twice. It wasn't killed, but it was held back." A lot is going into the ground now. "We should see 425 to 450 million pounds total of American flue-cured."

This was the best transplant season in Georgia in recent memory, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist, and the crop looks good in Georgia and Florida. But in South Carolina, heavy wind and rains considerably slowed completion of tobacco setting, says Rusty Skipper, Extension agent in Horry County.

A few plants infected with tomato spotted wilt virus have turned up in Georgia, primarily in fields that were planted very early or in fields where Admire and Actigard were not used, Moore says. "There seems to be a lower presence of thrips this year."

Neonicotinoids are taking a lot of heat over alleged environmental problems, with a ban on outdoor spraying likely soon in the EU. If that sentiment spreads here, Admire could certainly be threatened. That would be a problem, Moore says, because none of the other alternatives are as effective in the suppression of tomato spotted wilt virus.

What effect will the exit of AOI have on the burley market? Daniel Green, c.e.o. of the Burley Stabilization cooperative, thinks acreage in Tennessee, the most affected state will at most be 10,000 acres and maybe less. For all burley states, he estimates 65,000 acres. Little  burley has been transplanted so far.

Dark down: An early production estimate of the 2018 fire-cured crop provided by Hail & Cotton leaf dealer indicated that about 50 million pounds will be the volume,1.5 million pounds less than a year ago. The acreage for this type is projected at 15,625, 1,000 acres less than last year. The same estimate for dark air-cured tobacco is 14 million pounds, about 1.2 million pounds less than in 2017. Acreage is projected down 14 percent--714 acres to 5,000.

The effect Chinese tariffs might have on American tobacco is very difficult to estimate, but whatever the effect, it won't be good, the dealer says. "Even if the tariffs are slow developing, they could cause us some losses just because of the uncertainty," he says. "The situation seems certain to benefit Brazil."

Speaking of Brazil...The current flue-cured crop, just harvested and now being marketed, appears to be heading to 1.28 million pounds, about 77 million pounds less that in 2017, according to the leaf dealer Hail & Cotton. Brazil also grows burley, and the current crop is estimated at 154 million pounds, down 24 million pounds from 2017.


  • The Georgia-Florida Tobacco Tour will take place June 11-13, beginning with a 7 p.m. Kick-Off Supper at Brown Lantern Restaurant, Live Oak, Florida, June 11.



Monday, April 16, 2018

What will happen to our Chinese market?

Spreading the word: Steve Troxler (shown here addressing the crowd at the N.C. State Fair a few years ago) and his staff at the N.C. Department of Agriculture worked tirelessly to make China tobacco a presence in N.C. What is he going to do now with leaf sales to China are in jeopardy? See his opinion piece below.


Editor's note: I have received many good opinion pieces on the Chinese proposal to substantially increase tariffs on U.S. tobacco and tobacco products. And a few more on AOI's departure from the U.S. burley market. I have picked six that appear to me to "cover the waterfront." But if you have something to say, feel free to email it to me at the address above. 500 words or less if you can.--Chris Bickers

Market disruption may not last long. 
Commissioner of Agriculture

We worked very, very hard to get China tobacco buyers to come to North Carolina. Now they have become our No. 1 export destination. And quite frankly, that hard work paid off. It stabilized the declining contracts that farmers were getting. The number one agricultural export now from North Carolina to China is tobacco, at $156.3 million. We value the trading relationships we have worked to build over the years, and we want to continue to strengthen these and other trade partnerships. I want to be part of the solution, and I am hopeful that none of this comes to fruition. USDA Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue noted that farmers are patriots--and that is true--but [patriots] still have to pay the bills...The uncertainty is what's driving them [tobacco farmers] nuts. This could not have happened at a worse time for North Carolina farmers, who are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Mathew and low commodity prices. We also have NAFTA negotiations ongoing and a Farm Bill in the works. We know there will likely be disruption for markets, but we hope it will be short-termed. We are going to have to wait it out. Nobody wins when you put a tariff on food.
--Steve Troxler, Commissioner, N.C. Department of Agriculture

Pointing fingers doesn't  help. 
Grower association leader

Agriculture is being dragged into this situation by the Chinese as a means of retaliation to try and assert political pressure. Since farmers and their leadership organizations do not have a direct seat at the table, we are somewhat disadvantaged. We have been relegated to a position in which we can only provide constant and accurate communications to our government leaders about the economic risks. In that process it is important that we maintain proper civility and professionalism in advocating for farmers' interests. Pointing fingers or calling either side bad names does not help advance our goals of emerging from this circumstance with market stability and perhaps even market growth. What matters most is that China represents an important customer and potential growth market for U.S. leaf. We need to be diligent in continuing to build that relationship based on trust and delivery of the worlds best premium tobacco. Our mission is to convince China that it needs our tobacco and to do everything we can to protect this highly valued relationship for the future.
--Graham Boyd, C.E.O., Tobacco Growers Association of N.C.

Is too much being made of this now? 
A flue-cured grower

I am not turning a deaf ear to the possibility that American farmers may suffer because of tariffs that might be imposed on our leaf and manufactured products by the Chinese. But it seems to me that it will be a long way down the road before anything happens, because much negotiations will have to take place first. Too much is being made of this now, and I think it is in part because of opposition to President Trump. Where was this media when the last administration tried to exclude tobacco in the TPP? That would have had as much or more negative impact than the current tariff negotiations. In fact, the previous administration did more than try to exclude. It actually lead the successful effort to carve tobacco out of the TPP agreement.
--Clay Strickland, Tobacco Grower, Salemburg, N.C.

China has far more to lose from a trade war.
A tobacco economist

It is difficult to say how much the tariff increases will impact flue-cured exports to China. At this point they are prospective: They haven't been implemented yet pending the results of high level negotiations underway. Those negotiations need to address some serious trade and investment issues with China that have not been dealt with by prior administrations. Specific industries like flue-cured tobacco may be impacted if the negotiations are unsuccessful. But I believe that China has far more to lose from a trade war than the U.S., particularly if other countries like the Europeans also join in pressuring China on trade.
--Jim Starkey, retired USDA economist

Incentivize companies to use domestic leaf. 
A burley grower

With the current situation and outlook for American leaf, particularly burley, we need to push for great incentives to domestically produced tobacco products using domestic leaf only.  We need a great tax incentive on the domestic tobacco used in the American supply chain, and a higher tariff on imports of leaf and foreign products.  We need to take back our own markets, and the only way we can is if we incentivize the tobacco companies to use domestic leaf to the point it is more competitive against foreign producers.  The quota system on tobacco tariffs needs to be renegotiated as it is highly outdated at this point. Tobacco farmers will have to band together in this and bombard our politicians with mail until we see the changes needed to protect our industry.  We must let all politicians know of the economic impacts if we quit growing tobacco, and how it would also affect the supply and demand balance of other crops as tobacco farmers continue to exit and enter other ventures.  At least this is my opinion.
--R. Wurth, burley grower, Lansing, N.C

China tariffs proposed, not enacted. 
An equipment manufacturer

It is important to point out that, though PRC has "proposed" the tariffs you mention, they are yet to be "enacted." The difference between proposed vs. enacted is an important distinction, as is President Trump's proposal to double down with an additional 100 B of tariffs on Chinese goods. The odds are both sides are blustering

ahead of what may likely be protracted negotiations. It is important to remember that Trump has a long history of making inflammatory statements before actually backing down, or even reversing course, following face-to-face discussions with his avowed "adversaries." The prudent thing for FCV farmers to do appears to be to wait and see, while holding their course. I also have some comments regarding Tom Blair's letter. Tom appears correct in his assessment that demand for FCV remains strong, as well as the fact that companies and leaf merchants will seek to buy tobacco at the best price on the global market. He is also correct in saying it's all about the bottom line. This comes as no surprise. All business people seek the best price, including farmers and agricultural equipment manufacturers. The trick is to balance price versus value. Tobacco company executives routinely tell me their shareholders expect them to buy lesser grades at the best price on the global market. In addition, they say that the United States offers the only reliable supply of the high grades of FCV they must have to make their blends. At LONG, we face the same issue of balancing price and value. When we seek steel products, we solicit quotes from numerous suppliers. We then go with the ones that offer the lowest price. With steel, we are comparing apples to apples. However, when it comes to other barn components (like motors, fans, and burners) we seek single source quotes from only the manufacturers that offer the highest quality of those type components, regardless of price. This way, we can maintain our firm's well-earned reputation for building the highest quality barns. Some farmers go with cheaper barns, some stick with ours. It's like everything in life, one gets what one pays for.

--Robert H. Pope, Sr., Long Equipment Mfg. Co.
In other tobacco news...

There are several new faces in state and Extension tobacco work thanks to recent appointments. Among them:...Jewel Bronaugh has been appointed Virginia  Commissioner of Agriculture by Governor Ralph Northam. Bronaugh comes to the
post from Virginia State University (VSU), where she was Executive Director to VSU's Center for Agricultural Research, Engagement and Outreach. She had earlier been Dean of VSU's College of Agriculture. A native of Petersburg, Bronaugh is a graduate of James Madison and Virginia Tech Universities...Zach Hansen has been named the new Extension plant pathologist for tobacco in Tennessee. Stationed in Knoxville, he is a graduate of Clemson and Cornell universities. His short-term goals are to develop new programs for control of frogeye leafspot and black shank. Besides tobacco, he is also responsible for Extension pathology work on specialty crops....Kaleb Rathbone has been appointed director of the N.C. Department of Agriculture Research Stations Division. Since 2010, he has been superintendent of 
the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville. Rathbone is a native of Haywood County, where he grew up working on his family farm, raising cattle and growing tobacco. He earned his bachelor's degree in soil science and a master's degree in agriculture and natural resources management from the University of Tennessee at nearby Knoxville.  Rathbone began as a summer worker at the Mountain Research Station in 1999. He has served in several different capacities at the station since that time.


  • The Georgia-Florida Tobacco Tour will take place June 11-13. June 11, 7 p.m. Kick-Off Supper at Brown Lantern Restaurant, Live Oak, Florida. June 12, 7:30 a.m. Leave Live Oak, Fl., for farm visits. End in Tifton, Ga. June 13, 7:30 a.m. Leave Tifton, to visit the Bowen Farm of the Coastal Plain Experiment Station, Tifton, and farm locations near Douglas and Blackshear, Ga., ending in the late afternoon.