Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More on the marketing of this tobacco crop

Dark fire-cured near Springfield, Tn.
Dark tobacco awaits harvest near Springfield, Tn.
The best quality dark air- and fire-cured crop in Ken-tucky and Tennessee since 2006 is making its way to delivery stations, says Andy Bailey, Extension dark tobacco specialist. "So far, weights look good. I haven't heard of a 4,000-pound yield yet, but I know of some fire-cured yields in the 3,800 to 3,900 pound range and some air-cured yields of 3,400 pounds." Quality appears to be good, he says. "I have heard no major complaints from the buyers." Over two thirds of the two types have been received, says Bailey. "We will still be delivering in January and February." Kenneth Smith, leader of the Eastern Dark Fired Tobacco Growers Association, says it is "a good useable crop, one of the best we have had in a while. But it is not huge. I have heard that the companies are taking excess tobacco when they see it and it looks like all is going find a home." There is some concern about moisture, says Smith. "We have had a lot of rain since November 1. Farmers have been stripping as fast as they can." The weather has been good for taking fire-cured tobacco down but some of the air-cured tobacco has been too wet to take down and strip.Receiving began the first week of October for the second year, he says. The opening date used to take place in November, but the companies helped relieve some of delivery pressure by going to an earlier start in 2010. A note on the burley in the area: A leaf dealer who buys in middle Tennessee and western Kentucky says the burley crop there is coming in unusually slow. "I have never seen anything like this," he says. "It is an above average crop and its selling good but it is coming off the farm very slow." Bailey tells Tobacco Farmer Newsletter that the slow delivery is probably just an effect of high moisture. "Growers are having to wait on stripping until moisture levels go down even though curing has been complete for several weeks."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What would you grow if you didn't grow tobacco? A recent survey conducted by the Center for Tobacco Grower Research (CTGR) asked farmers what enterprise would most likely be the substitute if they had to replace tobacco. Cows and calves ranked number one with burley farmers while grains were said to have the most potential by flue-cured and dark tobacco production.

Extension specialist moves to research: Sandy Stewart, who has served since January of 2010 as an Extension tobacco specialist in N.C., will become the director of the Research Stations division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture on December 19. He will succeed Eddie Pitzer, who retired in September. Despite tight budgets, sources at N.C. State University tell TFN that there is a very good chance that this position will be re-filled, since industry support will be used to fund it. But the next individual who fills it may be a research associate rather than a specialist.

A longtime county Extension agent joins seed company: Scott Shoulars, formerly director of the Rockingham County (N.C.) Extension office, now serves as field agronomist for Cross Creek Seed in Raeford, N.C. He operates out of his home in Reidsville, N.C. To reach him, call 336 601 9512.  

Tar Heel tobacco growers: N.C. State will hold another Tobacco Short Course starting January 30, and ending February 3. Thanks to the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund, the course is free. See your county Extension agent for details.

Most of the information in this segment is derived from the December issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter, edited by Chris Bickers, 903-9 Shellbrook Ct., Raleigh, N.C. To receive the newsletter in your email, call 919 789 4631 or email chrisbickers@ gmail.com.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The burley market has been “extraordinary” so far

That is the only way to describe it, says Roger Quarles, a grower in Georgetown, Ky.The price actually seems to be going up at this time. Most years, that is not the case.” Another thing that is not usually the case: Prices at auctions have at times been higher than contract prices. Some of the demand on the auction market has come from farmers trying to buy other farmers’ tobacco to fill out their contracts, says Quarles. Some in fact seem to have a strategy of filling any underproduction from auctions rather than planting so much that overproduction is likely. But there wasn’t any overproduction this season. “We are going to be really short on weight,” says Brian Furnish of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association. “We didn’t have any serious weather problems. The weight is just short compared to recent years.” The quality is better than the last two years, he says. Furnish estimates that prices have averaged $1.75 per pound to $1.80 per pound for most of the crop, with the best bringing $1.82 to $1.82 per pound.

For growers who had flue-cured to sell, this turned out to be a good market, says Rick Smith, leaf dealer from Wilson, N.C. Volume is still unclear, but he thinks about 380 million pounds entered the trade, at an average of perhaps $1.78 to $1.80 per pound. “We would have hoped to average a little more,” he says. “That is not going to be enough to keep some farmers viable. Insurance won’t make them whole either.”

Any shortfall in U.S. flue-cured has been more than made up by the big crop in Brazil, estimated by Universal Leaf at over 1.5 billion pounds.  This is the largest Brazilian crop since 2005. It is 200 million pounds higher than initial forecasts. Burley production in Brazil is up 30 percent, Universal says.

The above material is derived from the Tobacco Farmer Newsletter, scheduled for mailing December 12. If you are not already on the email list to receive the newsletter, send your name, email address, postal address what tobacco type you grow (if any) to chrisbickers@gmail.com. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011



North Carolina--It appears that Hurricane Irene reduced production in North Carolina by 150 million pounds, most of it in the Eastern Belt, says Sandy Stewart, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "Some was destroyed in the field, but the big problem was that plants produced so much ethylene in response to being whipped by the wind that the ethylene caused the leaf to ripen and deteriorate quickly in the field. There was a short window to get the rest of the crop harvested, and much of it was not harvested." Most of the damage took place east of Interstate 95. There was relatively little damage from Irene in the Piedmont. But the crop there was very late maturing and to some degree ran out of degree days. "Some wasn't harvested until after the first frost, and resulting in some losses from a crop that had a lot of promise at one time," Stewart says. The most recent NASS projection for N.C. flue-cured--based on a survey conducted October 1--was 285.6 million pounds.

Virginia--The highest state average among the four leading flue-cured states may have been harvested in the Old Dominion. Extension and state specialists and NASS all project the yield at 2,400 pounds per acre or close to it. That would put volume at NASS' figure of 46.8 million pounds, up from nearly 40 million pounds the year before. Plantings were up nearly 20%. Virginians suffered little from Irene since it didn't extend that far inland, but as in N.C., part of the crop stayed in the field very late. About 300 acres were lost to frost.

South Carolina--Most growers are glad 2011 is over, says Dewitt Gooden, S.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "We had a dry weather crop except for a few areas that got spotty rain," he says. "Those areas had the best production. In the rest of the state, yields were low, and we had trouble curing. Selling was difficult, too, because the quality characteristics sometimes fell short of what buyers were looking for." NASS projects S.C. production at 23.2 million pounds based on 10% fewer acres than 2010 and a yield of 1,600 pounds, down from 2,250 pounds the previous year. But Gooden has doubts about NASS's production number. "That would be dismal for us," he says. "I don't see how we could have produced such a small crop."

Georgia--The actual average yield across the state will never be known, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco agronomist. "That's because so much tobacco moved into the trade in North Carolina, first when USGD didn't open and then even more after Irene created more demand for tobacco in North Carolina." Plantings were 11, 500 acres, according to NASS, with a yield of 2,350 pounds per acre and production of 27 million pounds. But Moore thinks 2,550 pounds per acre might be a better estimate of yield. With plantings of 11,500 acres, production would be just short of 3 million pounds.

Florida--Moore estimates plantings at about 850 acres and yields at 2,700 pounds per acre, indicating statewide production of almost 2.3 million pounds. Florida isn't included in the NASS survey.

Kentucky--Harvest of the burley crop was complete in early November, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "But we are nowhere near having it all stripped." Curing conditions so far have been good for most of this crop. But much was harvested late in the season and is being cured in cooler conditions than in a normal year. There is more of a tendency toward more green tobacco when burley is cured in cooler weather. The early crop appears to have good quality, maybe the best in three or four years, he says, and the middle crop appears to be acceptable to good. "But we have a large later crop, with 20% to 25% harvested after October 1, which is more than normal." There are quality concerns about the later crop. "We had to harvest it in cool weather, so the color could be questionable. There has been some improvement in color in the barn in recent weeks, but it will not likely be as good in quality as the early crop. If we can get most of the green out of it, I think it will be a useable crop." As to production, Pearce thinks the NASS October estimate could be close to the mark. "Our average yields probably are around 2,000 pounds an acre and 128 million pounds is reasonable," he says. "That would be down from last year by about 5% to 10%."

Tennessee--Burley plantings were estimated by NASS in October at 14,000 harvested acres, says Paul Denton, Ten-nessee Extension tobacco specialist. The average yield was pegged at 1,700 pounds per acre with total production of 23.8 million pounds. "The acreage estimate is down by 2,000 acres from the mid-summer estimate, indicating considerable abandonment," he says. "But that seems a little high to me, so I am guessing we will harvest closer to 15,000 acres." On the other hand, the 1,700-pound-per-acre yield estimate may be optimistic, given the severity of the drought in the Macon-Smith-Trousdale County area of middle Tennessee, he says. "At 15,000 acres and a 1,600-pound yield, production comes in at about 24 million pounds." The bright spot for burley is that quality looks good everywhere Denton has been, he says.

Virginia--NASS' burley plantings estimate seems low to Danny Peek, Virginia Extension tobacco specialist. "Our burley acreage is larger than the reported acreage, because many small growers no longer report any acreage at all," says Peek. "I feel confident that there are approximately 2,400 acres of burley in Virginia now. I am going to say the yield is approximately 2,200 to 2,300 pounds per acre."

North Carolina--Burley production was projected at 3.5 million by NASS, down about 500,000 pounds from 2010. That was on plantings of 2,300 acres and with a yield of 1,500 pounds per acre, down about 15% from the year before.

Pennsylvania--Volume of the three air-cured types that make up most of this state's production appears to be down 15% to 20% from the original contract, says Pam Haver of Trileaf Tobacco Co., New Holland, Pa. Two storms that passed over the tobacco area were the major causes. Hurricane Irene led to flooding on August 27, but much worse damage resulted from Tropical Storm Lee on September 9. Much of the crop that remained in the field at that time was "shocked" or on the ground when Lee blew through and it remained wet for a long time and didn't cure well. USDA reported that growers faced extremely wet weather during harvest, and many had concerns about pole burn during curing. "It is a very uneven crop," she says. "Some of the tobacco harvested before the storms is very good quality." All three types grown in the state -- burley, Pennsylvania broadleaf and Southern Maryland -- suffered about the same level of loss. The NASS October projection estimated that yield prospects for Southern Maryland had declined about 7% since September but that the decline may actually be more. The projection for all types was 10.1 million pounds which appeared too optimistic to some industry observers.
Kentucky-Tennessee--The dark fire-cured tobacco yield was estimated by NASS at 3,400 pounds per acre in Kentucky and 3,000 pounds in Tennessee. "I would say this is reasonable but may be a bit low for Tennessee." says Denton.

Why N.C. flue-cured suffered so much from Irene--The Tull Hill Farm of Hugo, N.C., had a terrific crop in the field just before Irene. "We delayed harvest to get it fully matured," says James Hill, one of the principals of the operation. "That proved to be a mistake. Hurricane Irene came along and wiped us out. We were only able to harvest three to five days after the storm, then the quality fell off and there was no point in harvesting any more." On much of the crop he only got to pull the three bottom leaves." The older mature tobacco that didn't drown ripened in the next few days. The younger tobacco was just flattened. It was the worst loss the farm had ever experienced on tobacco. "We had never had a hurricane to strike when we had so much tobacco in the field," he says. "When we have a hurricane, it is usually when we are almost finished."

Virginia has a new tobacco specialist: Bill Scruggs will cover tobacco as part of his responsibilities in the Southside with the Virginia Department of Agriculture. You can reach him at (804) 363-9279 or bill.scruggs@vdacs.virginia gov.

Dates to remember: 
The N.C. Tobacco Day will be held December 1 at the Johnston County Extension Center in SmithfieldN.C., starting at 8 a.m. For more information, contact Mina Mila at 919-513-1291. 

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

How much tobacco did you grow this season?

The National Agricultural Statistics Service of USDA released its October Production Report Wednesday October 12, 2011. The report--based on USDA's October 1 survey--showed: 

  • Flue-cured tobacco production is expected to be 383 million pounds, one percent above the September forecast but down from 451 million pounds in 2010. Producers were able to salvage more production in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene than expected, leading to the small improvement since September, the report said.

  • Burley production is forecast at 173 million pounds, up two percent from the previous month but down from 187 million pounds last season. In Kentucky, curing conditions improved in September after a very hot and dry summer. Virginia growers reported better yields than previously expected.

  • Fire-cured tobacco production is forecast at 52.4 million pounds, one percent above last month's forecast and up considerably from the 48 million pounds produced in 2010. Tennessee growers reported that the dark fire-cured crop fared well due to irrigation. 

  • Dark air-cured tobacco is forecast at 15.6 million pounds, up two percent from the September forecast and roughly the same as last season. As of October 2, the Kentucky dark-air-cured tobacco harvest was 92 percent complete, which is slightly ahead of previous year. 

  • Cigar type production is forecast at 7.71 million pounds, down 16 percent from the previous forecast and down considerably from the nearly 10 million pounds of 2010, while Southern Maryland production is forecast at 6.15 million pounds, down 7 percent from last month and up from nearly five million pounds lasts season. 
For further details, see http://www.nass.usda.gov.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How FDA could affect leaf production

More from the annual meeting of Burley Stabilization Corporation:
Arnold Hamm, the grower representative on the Food and Drug Administration’ s tobacco advisory committee, told the cooperative that the Family Smoking Prevention and Control Act of 2009 was designed to decrease tobacco product consumption, and less consumption of tobacco products will mean less tobacco produced.

Some of that will be as a result of an unintended consequence. “Harsh regulations [if implemented] would increase demand for contraband tobacco products,” said Hamm. “Contraband tobacco products are unlikely to contain American tobacco.”

Another unintended consequence: Regulations limiting or prohibiting the level of some tobacco smoke constituents might cause a shift in where tobacco is grown and what kinds of tobacco can be used. “Manufacturers would be obliged to source tobacco that helps meet regulatory requirements, wherever they have to look,” he said.

For more on Hamm's presentation, see Tobacco Farmer Newsletter Update later this week.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An old friend has passed.

Charlie King, longtime executive for Tobacco Associates in Raleigh, N.C., died  October 3 of cancer. He will be missed for his many good qualities, not the least of which was that he always gave a straight answer to a straight question. Visitation will be held later this evening at the Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, 300 St. Mary’s Street, Raleigh, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Church services will be held on Thursday at 2 p.m.at Trinity Baptist Church, 4815 Six Forks Road, Raleigh.  Burial will follow at Montlawn Memorial Park, 2911 South Wilmington Street. Memorials can be made to the NCSU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to continue Charlie’s commitment to the advancement of agriculture in North Carolina. You can contribute online at http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/givenow, or send checks payable to The NC Agricultural Foundation, Inc.. in memory of Charlie King to NCSU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Campus Box 7645 Raleigh, NC  27695-7645.
--Chris Bickers

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Update on U.S. Growers Direct contracts

The purchase of tobacco by Alliance One International (AOI) that had originally been contracted by U.S. Growers Direct (USGD) was going smoothly in early October, says Jeff Griffin, AOI manager of leaf affairs. “Because of the hurricane, we are not sure how many pounds are out there. It is very hard to get a handle on the volume of this crop.” But industry observers agree that probably no more than 25 million pounds—and certainly not 100 million pounds as USGD claimed--were ever destined for delivery to USGD. Thanks to low yields, it seems unlikely that even that much will be taken by AOI. Griffin says that USGD farmers report no problem dealing with the AOI prices and grading. “Our contracts are similar, and we have had no complaints about that,” he says. “Farmers seem to be pleased with how this is turning out.” The volume has been very good at the Wilson, N.C., buying station and also in Louisburg, N.C., and Douglas, Ga.Georgia wasn’t affected much by the hurricane,” says Griffin.
Yield trends for burley have been disappointing since deregulation, says Kentucky Extension tobacco economist Will Snell, who spoke at the recent meeting of the Burley Stabilization Cooperative [BSC] in Springfield, Tn. The loss of marginal land hasn’t lead to increased yields as had been hoped, and farmers who want to stay in burley over the long term will have to find some way to get yields up, says Snell. “There is no profit in growing burley tobacco if your yield is below 2,000 pounds per acre.” In other statistics relating to this season’s crop, Snell says: ●Yield is projected at 1,890 pounds per acre.●Acreage is down about eight percent. ●Production should be about 170 million pounds more or less, which would be roughly nine percent less than 2010.

Burley crop report: In east Tennessee, the burley crop looked quite good as harvest drew to a close in September, says Paul Denton, Kentucky-Tennessee Extension specialist, who also spoke at the BSC meeting. “The tobacco I saw September 27 did not look promising when I saw it back in mid-August. But as it was being harvested, it looked like it might yield 2,400 pounds per acre.” At the nearby Limestone community of Washington County, Denton found much tobacco still in the field. “I would say they were a little behind on harvest, with maybe 40 % still in the field. But they were working hard at cutting and housing on September 27.” The crop there really benefited from late rains and looked a lot better than it had a month before. “Farmers were beginning to worry about frost and cool curing temperatures for the later crop after the cooler temperatures of the weekend of October 1-2, Denton says… It paid to plant early in 2011, says Mike Bobo of Lebanon, Tn. “In 2012, I will try to plant by May 1. We had some we planted on July 2 that is no good now.” It was a tough year regardless when one planted, he says. “Once it dried up, it stayed dry. We will definitely have a below-average crop.” Bobo thinks he saved a little on expenses by planting a black-shank-resistant variety for the first time. “In the past, I have kept black shank in control with Ridomil and Quaddris,” he says. “But KT 209 worked very well this season”… In southwestern Virginia, burley planted in areas of heavier clay were visible to the eye because of the drought, said Kenneth Reynolds of Abingdon, Va. “Where tobacco was on clay soil, the dry weather lead to a shorter crop.” 

Chaos in flue-cured country

Flue-cured report: The N.C. flue-cured situation is still chaotic. Loren Fisher, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist, says that in the east, a substantial portion was destroyed by the hurricane, and more was abandoned afterwards because of difficulty harvesting it. On what remains, many farmers are facing issues of limited barn space or delayed ripening. Fisher is trying to look on the bright side, but there are estimates that the total flue-cured crop (all states) could fall a third short of earlier estimates… There is one potential bright spot: The Piedmont flue-cured crop looks good. Unfortunately, much remains to be harvested because of dry weather earlier. “This is one year when we would really like to get through the whole month of October before frost sets in,” says Fisher… Georgia, too, is headed for a good flue-cured crop and is in little danger of frost. “We have a high yield and good quality,” says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. “But it has been a very expensive crop. Farmers used lots of irrigation.” But the big cost item was sucker control. “Farmers needed a hand crew to remove the misses, and I know of some who had to spend $10,000 a week for a six- or seven-week sucker crop. “

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A soft place to land, P. 2: Alliance One to the rescue

The U.S. Growers Direct debacle has been resolved, at least to some degree. Aliance One International decided this morning to offer to accept delivery of all tobacco contracted by USGD. It will use its own price schedule and will pick the tobacco from the USGD buying station at which it was contracted. USGD staff will be retained to buy and handle the leaf, and these individuals will be supervised by Alliance One personnel. But USGD growers will have the option of selling to any other buyer they may want to, with no penalty. Jeff Griffin, Grower Affairs manager for the leaf department of Alliance One, told an emergency meeting in Wilson, N.C., of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina (TGANC) this morning (September 15) that his company just decided to take this step earlier in the day. "It is effective immediately, but growers should not deliver their tobacco to their buying station until they receive instructions from the agent they have dealt with," he said. The 100 or so farmers who attended the meeting were delighted by this news (and to tell the truth, so was I). Graham Boyd, executive vice president of TGANC, said that the Alliance One decision amounts to a "rescue" of USGD growers, and it will benefit the market as a whole. "It means this tobacco won't have to hunt for a home," he said. "It gives a formal method for this tobacco to enter the marketplace." I have more details but I will hold them so I can get this out. I wrote this rather quickly so please forgive any typos.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Looking for a soft place to land

A story is told about the great boxer George Foreman. He once fought another boxer of lesser talent. When the opponent entered the ring and realized he was in great danger of getting knocked out, he asked his trainer for advice. The trainer replied, "Start looking for a soft place to land!" If I had substantial tobacco contracted to U.S. Growers Direct, looking for a soft pace to land is exactly what I would be doing now, because I am losing hope that this company can mount a leaf-buying campaign as ambitious as the one it contracted for with growers. I was hoping to tell you in this newsletter that USGD stations have opened. But as best I can tell, USGD has still not begun receiving leaf. I say this with some uncertainty, because every time I have called their central office, I get put on hold until a recorded message comes on saying I should hang up and call again. That is par for the course for these people. In fact, I have to say this whole experience has been very humbling to me. In the 33 years that I have been reporting on tobacco, I have many times been misled, avoided or lied to by companies who had something to hide. But this is the first tobacco company I have ever dealt with that doesn't recognize that I exist!  Well, enough about my wounded ego. I have been reliably informed that the Douglas, Ga., station did not open Friday, as was planned, while another reliable informant told me the Louisburg, N.C., station had not opened by mid day Friday which makes me think it unlikely that it opened at all. I don't know about the other stations--which I believe are in ClarksvilleVa.,  WilsonN.C.GoldsboroN.C., and Lake CityS.C.--but I am guessing they didn't open either. I am told that a small amount of tobacco had already been sold at the Douglas station, apparently to a single buyer, but that the station ceased buying right after that. By the way, if anyone can correct me on any of this, feel free to call or email me at the numbers below...I can't tell you how much I hate to say this but it is beginning to look like Hurricane Irene was the best thing to happen to the 2011 crop. Thanks to storm losses, I am already hearing that some major buyers have little hope that they will be able to meet their needs from their contracted growers. There will certainly be more of a market for excess tobacco than usual. In my next issue, out in about two weeks, I will provide a list of secondary markets you could turn to. If there is anyone out there who wants to be on that list, email me at chrisbickers@gmail.com, or call me at any time at (919) 789-4631. Alternative markets might just turn out to be the "soft place" you need to land on. Late note:  I just called USGD to give them one more chance to set the record straight. I was referred to a woman. I asked if any of their stations had began purchasing tobacco. She said yes. I asked which ones. She said she would have someone call me. I said I needed to hear from her in an hour. That was two hours ago. What a surprise. [Since that time, I have learned that the Douglas, Louisburg and Wilson stations opened Monday.]

The rundown from Irene

Hurricane Irene damage in North Carolina fell mostly from Wilson east to the coast, says Sandy Stewart, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "The farther east you went the worse the effect." When plants are beaten around like they were, they produce ethylene, the chemical involved in ripening. Eventually, the leaf begins to deteriorate and the condition and quality is much in question. The damage will be varied across the state. Some counties, particularly in the Sand Hills and Piedmont, will not have any damage at all, while some in the east will lose 80% to 90% of their crop. But he thinks it will be several weeks before a reliable number can be derived for damage statewide. "But I was encouraged to talk to a grower in Sampson County on September 8 who says he was pleased with the quality of the leaf he had harvested since the hurricane," he says. "He had been able to harvest it soon after the event, and that makes a big difference." Tobacco harvested more than 10 days after the hurricane will probably not fare so well. In Virginia,farmers continued harvest as they tried to salvage their crop, according to the weekly state crop report. Tobacco was blown down in some areas, but those producers seem to think it will be okay, the report says. In Nottoway County, Extension agent Jimmy Gantt says 

Irene blew approximately 60% of the tobacco crop into a moderate to heavy lean. "Wind damage to the leaves was only 5% to 10%," says Gantt. "The main problem will be the inability to use mechanical harvesters in a large portion of the flue crop."

Georgia and Florida didn't get any wind or rain from Irene, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco agronomist. "We could have used a little of that rain to revive things. There is a lot of green still in the leaf." But there are some very good yields in Georgia, despite the extreme heat in July and August. Some of the tobacco is thin because of the drought, and the scorching heat has lead to some burning on leaf edges. The yield will probably be better than last year, maybe 2,400 pounds per acre, he says. "The buyers are saying there is some good tobacco out there. This looks like a good year for us." Florida has a good crop too. Much of it is irrigated, so drought was not a big consideration.Moore expected that harvest would be finished the week starting September 11. The Georgia harvest probably will take at least another week.

Fire-cured tobacco in Kentucky and Tennessee could be the best since 2006. "We have been lucky to receive timely rains," says Andy Bailey, Kentucky-Tennessee Extension dark tobacco specialist. "The yield will probably be a little higher than normal, maybe 3,600 pounds per acre compared to the average of about 3,400 pounds per acre." About half the dark tobacco-both fire-cured and air-cured--has been harvested, Bailey says.

Burley in Kentucky is extremely variable, says Bob PearceKentucky Extension tobacco specialist. In central Kentucky, there was good rain, but not far west of Lexington there were significant problems of dry weather. This week, Kentucky received some rain from remnants of Tropical Storm Lee. In some areas it was as much as four inches. Since then, it has been overcast and misty, stalling harvest to some extent. Again the conditions were drier in the western part of the state. "The moisture and humidity had a positive effect on curing quality," says Pearce. "We are not currently seeing a lot of problems with quick curing."

The best way to try to avoid unfavorable curing conditions for burley is by harvest timing. In general, says Paul Denton, Kentucky-Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist, the best curing conditions occur early in the growing season, when the temperatures are still warm and relative humidity is still high. "Harvest as much tobacco as possible before late September so that the yellowing and browning phases are completed before the middle of October. The cooler and drier conditions that typically occur in late October and November are less favorable for good curing." The current issue of the newsletter for the Center for Tobacco Grower Research includes an article by Denton on how to enhance burley quality in the curing process. To read it, go to www.tobaccogrowerresearch.com. And you will be able to learn more from Denton when the Burley Stabilization Corporation holds its annual meeting September 26 at its new office on 835 Bill Jones Industrial Dr., Springfield, Tn. Speakers will include Denton, Ky. Extension ag economist Will Snell and FDA Advisory committee member Arnold Hamm. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. and end with a free lunch. Call (615) 212-0508 for more information.