Tobacco Growers Cautiously Optimistic at US Tobacco Forum

The US Tobacco Forum took place in Durham on Thursday and Friday, and Peter Daniel, Assistant to the President was on hand for the conference;
 

“It’s a well-attended event. We’ve had farmers from Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia sharing about their opportunities, their struggles, and their hopes for an outstanding harvest year.”
 

Will Snell, agricultural economist with university of Kentucky, was one of the presenters at the forum and said that tobacco growers are hesitant to make capital investments:
 

“Well, the tobacco grower is always in a state of uncertainty, obviously a state like North Carolina that knows the history of tobacco, certainly Kentucky is the same situation. But, been through a lot the last 10, 20 years, going to be looking at some opportunities, at least in the short term

I think there’s going to be some opportunities to grow more tobacco to meet some tightening supplies in the world market. But, again, the long term very uncertain, and a lot of producers very reluctant in this very uncertain industry.”
 

“Of course, all acres are contract now, how are the acres comparing year in, year out?”
 

“Well, ever since the tobacco buyout in 2004, in my area in Kentucky, we’ve actually been very stable on contracts, some variation, certainly not as much variation as we had before the program, but obviously down considerably from w here we were 10 years ago.
We’re actually in a situation right now with burley tobacco there’s just not enough growers or contract pounds out there to meet the needs of the companies. So, very different situation, just because we’ve lost a lot of growers that exited the industry. So, supplies have gotten fairly tight.”
 

“Of course, last year North Carolina had Hurricane Irene which took out a poor crop…what remained of a poor crop. Do you think that’s what contributing to the tight supplies?”
 

“Yes, there’s no doubt that was a major factor tightening supplies, probably tighter supplies for burley tobacco rather than flue cured, you still grow a little bit of burley tobacco here in North Carolina. Ss I said, it’s got the potential to be a grower’s market this year, if we have a good quality crop.”
 

“And we’re off to a good start.”
“right. We’ve got some dry pockets in the southeast, or at least in our state of Kentucky but tobacco likes it a little bit dry early on and from what we’re hearing at the Forum, that the crop is off to a pretty decent start. You can’t end up with a good crop if you don’t have at least a good one to start off with.”
 

“All right, anything you’d like to add?”
 

“Just some interesting times in agriculture as a whole, we’re in a situation where the world’s going to need more food, and we can’t make more and there’s going to be opportunities for agriculture in the future and hopefully Kentucky and North Carolina farmers will be in a position to take advantage of that.”
 

Daniel says that he’s hearing some optimism among tobacco growers:
 

“It’s a qualified optimism. Input expenses have gotten so high, they are concerned about what the market price is going to be and the quality that they have to produce in order to make a good profit. With the prices of other commodities, corn and soybeans, they’re also competing for acreage now with tobacco.”
 

“Now, I would think that labor would also be an issue in the tobacco grower’s mind”
 

“Labor is always an issue not only in tobacco grower’s minds, but anyone that has to deal with hand-harvesting and hand-labor on the farm. It is the limiting factor in the expansion of the economy that is growing in this state and in this nation.”
 


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