Thursday, February 27, 2020


A self-propelled sprayer attracted a lot of interest at the Granville Equipment display at the Southern Farm Show earlier this month. Shown here is Mike Smith (center, a farmer from Georgia), who is learning about the sprayer from (from left) Randy Watkins, Don Watkins and Stephanie Keith, all of the Granville staff. (Photo by the editor)

Looking back on the farm show: It seemed that attendance at the Southern Farm Show earlier this month was noticeably reduced from 2019. But exhibitors (some anyway) who sold mostly tobacco equipment told me that the turnout for them was good, especially on Friday. "We had plenty of people," said Randy Watkins at Granville Equipment Company. "And they showed better optimism than they did at the last show." 

Among the popular implements at the Granville display were its multipass harvester and its self-propelled high clearance sprayer. "We sold a few sprayers, though not as many as we would have if the tobacco economy was stronger than what it is," said Watkins. Granville has some new hemp production equipment, and it--especially its Granville Flower Extractor system--attracted considerable interest from visitors to the exhibit.

Used equipment is selling at very low prices at farm sales, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist, and a little new equipment is moving. "A few curing barns have been purchased in Georgia and Florida," says Moore. "Some replace barns that burned down last season, while others have replaced old barns that were no longer in good condition."

Transplanting will begin soonIn Florida, some tobacco may be taken to the field as early as March 10, says Moore. But in Georgia, he hopes that farmers will delay transplanting until April 7 to reduce incidence of tomato spotted wilt virus. But the crop may not wait. "We have seeded greenhouses, and some plants have been clipped multiple times," says Moore. "But fields are wet and little field work has been done so far." Farmers are getting to the point  that they need to know what the industry needs and what size contract they can expect.


The Tobacco Growers Assn. of N.C. conferred awards  to several individuals at the Southern Farm Show. They were:

  • Outstanding Association Director--Randy Edwards, Johnston County,
  •  Farm Family of the Year--Grissom Family Farms, Vance County.
  • Extension --Rick Bonanno, N.C. Director of Extension.
    Randy Edwards
  • Distinguished Service--Beth Farrell, North Carolina Department of Agriculture.
  • Lifetime Century Member--Frank Grainger, Fair Products.

The Tobacco Farm Life Museum of Kenly, N.C., presented two awards during the Southern Farm Show:
  • The Excellence in Agriculture award went to Alice Scott, co-owner and executive secretary of Scott Farms, a sixth-generation family farm  
    Wayne Grissom accepting for Grissom family of Vance Co.
    in Lucama, N.C., for her involvement in the promotion and continued growth of the agriculture community in North Carolina. The sponsor of this award was Southern Bank.
  • Innovative Young Farmer of the Year went to Michelle Pace Davis, who operates Pace Family Farms located in Clayton, N.C., received the. Davis has been instrumental in opening the Pace Family Farms as an agritourism location and in instituting creative solutions to prevent produce waste. The award sponsor Farm Credit Assns. of North Carolina.
New director at Oxford: Chris Jernigan has been named superintendent of the Oxford (N.C.) Tobacco Research Station. Jernigan previously served as the tobacco supervisor and later as assistant superintendent at the Caswell/Lower Coastal Plains Research Stations in Kinston. More recently, Jernigan worked in the NCDA'S Agronomic Services Division as a regional agronomist and research coordinator. Two other staff members have been given new positions: Carl Watson has been named assistant superintendent and John Shotwell has been named research specialist in the tobacco program.
Tobacco specialist needed in Tennessee: The post of state Extension tobacco specialist in Tennessee is vacant since Eric Walker joined the staff of Burley Stabilization Corp. in Springfield, Tn. Walker had served as Extension state tobacco specialist for Tennessee since 2014. As a result of his departure, a search effort to fill the Extension position will begin shortly, and it is hoped that the position can be filled toward the end of 2020. The location of the new specialist's office has not been decided. The position will have responsibilities for some tobacco Extension work in Kentucky.

New director at Greeneville, Tn.: Justin L. McKinney has been appointed director of the University of Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center at Greeneville, Tennessee. McKinney was previously the director and financial manager of the Eastern Kentucky University farms...Rob Ellis, who had been the director of the Greeneville station as well as the Highland Rim station, has returned to working full time at Highland Rim. NOTE: Contrary to earlier announcements (see TFN, January II 2018), a small amount of tobacco research continues at the Greeneville station, especially burley variety research.


Feb 27, 5:30 pm, Central City, KY
Mar 2, 6 pm, Owensboro, KY 
Mar 3, 6 pm, Madison IN 
Mar 3, 12 pm, Russellville, KY
Mar 4, 12:30 pm, Tifton GA
Mar 5, 10 am, Marion SC
Mar 5, 6 pm, Greeneville TN
Mar 10, 1 pm, Murray KY
Mar 12, 9 am, Greensburg, KY
Mar 16, 6 pm, Lafayette, TN

Wednesday, February 19, 2020


Signing up--Lauren Walker, compliance and assessment coordinator for GAP Connections, helps farmers register for their annual training session in best agricultural practices. This session took place at the Southern Farm Show in Raleigh on February 7 right after the annual meeting of the Tobacco Grower Association of N.C. About 20 more sessions remain this year (see below for dates and locations).

For the first time in a while, you could find optimism in a group of farmers about the resumption of leaf sales to China, The meeting in question was the annual meeting of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina (TGANC) in Raleigh on February 7. Much of the improved outlook was spurred by the news that American tobacco is included on the list of agricultural products in Phase 1 of the U.S.-China trade agreement. That doesn't guarantee any new sales but sets the stage for them.

China on his mind. A case in point--N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler told TGANC that he goes to bed thinking about China, dreams about China while he is sleeping and thinks about China when he wakes up. But those dreams may improve soon--he is guardedly optimistic about sales. now that we know that tobacco is eligible to be included in Phase I sales. "We think we will get China back on this market," he said.

To meet its $40 billion commitment in purchases of U.S. food, agricultural and seafood products China will need to increase purchases of many products, said Blake Brown, N.C. Extension agricultural economist. It may well choose to buy our flue-cured tobacco. Brown noted that despite the break in purchasing, the China Tobacco International (North America) office in Cary, N.C., near Raleigh, has never been closed.

We must do everything possible to restore trade with China, added Steve Griffin, president of TGANC. "We are a shrinking player in an increasingly globalized industry," he said. "The number of major cigarette manufacturers can be counted on two hands. The companies are very motivated to find least-cost ingredients, even the most significant one--tobacco leaf it-self." There is too much tobacco being grown, said Griffin. "Worse, it is sold too cheap."
Farmers are not the only members of the tobacco community that are worried about China. Pieter Sikkel, chairman, president and c.e.o at Pyxus, parent company of Alliance One International, said in an announcement on February 10 that "While we are pleased that tobacco is included on the list of agricultural products in Phase 1 of the U.S.-China trade agreement, additional steps are needed to restart leaf exports from the United States to China." The coronavirus outbreak is also a concern, and Pyxus-Alliance One is closely monitoring the possible negative impact on leaf trade of the disease.
In other issues addressed at the TGANC meeting:

--The procurement cycle for leaf has become a growing problem for farmers, said Griffin. "In less than 30 days, a majority of growers need to begin seeding greenhouses for the new crop. Yet to date, only one tobacco contracting company has executed contracts. A second has at least given the grower base an expectation of volumes and may sign contracts in the near future. But much of the procurement need remains unknown." Reform is strongly needed, he believes.
--A frightening prospect: Too many family farms are exiting the business. "Some [are] by choice and some due to circumstances," said Griffin. "One way or another, this trend needs our full attention. I call on the industry to help slow the erosion of demand for U.S. leaf by making a strong commitment to include more of it in the final product while at the same time protecting the price."
In other tobacco news:

How much tobacco will be grown this year? The first estimate of 2020 production was released by Universal Leaf on February 4.
  • Flue-Cured--The world total is estimated at 8,064 million green pounds, down two percent from the previous season. Brazil's crop is estimated at 1,212 million green pounds, down eight percent from last season, while the USA's crop is estimated at 300 million green pounds, up eight percent from last season. The PRC flue-cured crop is estimated at 3,842 million green pounds, equal to last season.
  • Burley--The world total is estimated down seven percent at 1,128 million green pounds. Brazil's burley crop is estimated at 125 million green pounds, down slightly from last year, while the USA crop is estimated at 81 million green pounds. The PRC burley crop is estimated at 15 million green pounds, down 40 percent from last season.
  • Oriental--The world total is up nearly six percent at 374 million green pounds.
  • Dark Air-Cured--The world total is 273 million green pounds, roughly the same as last year.
See our next issue in about 10 days for more news from the Southern Farm Show and the TGANC annual meeting.

GAP Meetings in February and March
Feb 10, 9 am, Calhoun, KY
Feb 11, 10 am, Dixon, KY
Feb 12, 10 am, Phenix, VA
Feb 17, 6 pm, Cadiz, KY
Feb 19, 1 pm, West Union, OH
Feb 19, 7 pm, Gallipolis, OH
Feb 24, 10 am, Kingsport, TN
Feb 25, 10 am, Hopkinsville, KY
Feb 26, 10 am, Owensboro, KY
Feb 27,  10 am, Lexington, KY
Feb 27, 5:30 pm, Central City, KY
Mar 2, 6 pm, Owensboro, KY 
Mar 3, 6 pm, Madison IN 
Mar 3, 12 pm, Russellville, KY
Mar 4, 12:30 pm, Tifton GA
Mar 5, 10 am, Marion SC
Mar 5, 6 pm, Greeneville TN
Mar 10, 1 pm, Murray KY
Mar 16, 6 pm, Lafayette, TN
Mar 25, 6 pm. Scottsville, KY
Mar 30, 6:30 pm. Owenton, KY

Bickers Editing Service, 903-9 Shellbrook Ct., Raleigh, NC 27609