Friday, April 17, 2015


Heat exchangers waiting to go into World Tobacco curing barns rest at a factoryin Wilson, N.C., in September 2013.

 The flood of new flue-curing barns that have been bought the last two seasons should relieve some of the pressure on curing capacity. "We have added some new barns in Virginia and upgraded others," says David Reed, Virginia Extension tobacco specialist. "Since we are growing a little less tobacco this year, we may be in a better situation relative to capacity." But he is still apprehensive as to what will happen if cold weather sets in early. "We are harvesting too much of our crop in October as it is," he says. 

Do not--repeat, do not--delay testing your heat exchangers. Under the Tobacco GAP Program, it is your responsibility have all your barns tested at least once every three years by a person certified to check barns, and a testing record maintained.  This is the third year. Many individuals have trained as testers. Many are farmers, but some commercial individuals-independent consultants, equipment manufacturer employees and the like-are getting trained and certified, so Reed thinks there will be testing expertise available if you don't want to do it yourself. "We will probably have 50 commercial testers in Virginia."

When will this crop go in the ground? Flue-cured: Planting started in Florida in late March, in Georgia in early April and South Carolina a little later, and has just begun in North Carolina. It won't begin in Virginia till the end of next week (around April 24) or
later, says Reed. Burley: In Tennessee, transplanting may possibly begin at the end of April but is not likely to really pick up till early May. A few greenhouses may yet be seeded but most are done. Kentucky ran a little behind-through April 12, nearly a quarter of the greenhouses had yet to be seeded, according to USDA's NASS.

A very wet spring: Much of the tobacco belt experienced frequent rains with very little relief in between. In North Carolina, the flue-cured plant crop is behind already, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. Soils that seemed all spring to be too wet to fumigate have been the problem. Some farmers delayed seeding their houses when they saw the moisture situation, he says. Virginians got off to a late start on fumigating, says Reed. "But it is moving well now, and I don't think that it is going to cause any delay." 

The planting picture:VA--Flue-cured acreage will be down but probably not more than 10 percent, says Reed. TN--Burley acreage will be down 25 percent (but that may be optimistic), says Walker. GA/FL--Flue-cured acreage in both states will be down by about 10 percent, says J.Michael Moore. I didn't get Extension estimates for NC, SC and KY, although last month's Prospective Plantings Report had NC flue-cured down nine percent, SC flue-cured down 18 percent and KY burley down eight percent.

Need a new GAP Grower ID card? It will cost $13 from GAP Connections, but you can avoid that charge two ways:
  • The GAP Connections Mobile "app," available for the Android and iPhone brand smartphones, which provides an electronic image of the card with the QR code. To download the app, go to the App Store and type in "GAP Connections Grower."
  • Or a paper version of the card can also be printed at any time by logging into the Grower ID System on the GAP Connections website.
Both the app and a Grower ID System log-in will require your Grower ID number and password. If you need help with either of these items please call GAP Connections at 865-622-4606.

One last quote from Kentucky economist Will Snell's insightful analysis of the outlook for the burley last month: "The industry has experienced drastic volume reductions in the past, followed by some stability and even some periods of growth. Perhaps this will occur in the near future, but no one can make this statement with a lot of confidence in today's marketing environment. While the market is demanding less burley today, such drastic contraction of the industry within a single year possibly jeopardizes future U.S. burley leaf supply security for buyers if the market eventually rebounds." You can find the whole piece at

(All burley)

TENNESSEE--April 28, 7:30 p.m. Trousdale County High School, 262 West McMurry Blvd., Hartsville, Tn. Trousdale County. Contact 615-382-3130 or

WISCONSIN--April 28, 3 p.m. Creekview Par 3 Golf Course, 770 Albion Rd., Edgerton, Wis. Contact

KENTUCKY--April 30, 7:30 p.m. Marriot Griffin Gate Hotel, 1800 Newton Pike, Lexington, Ky., Fayette County.

Editor's note: I hope you have enjoyed this issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. 
If you would like to receive it regularly, please send a subscription request to chris For more information, you can email me at that address or 
call me at 919-789-4631. Thanks--Chris Bickers


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