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Tennessee hosts tri-state tobacco growers meeting
By ANN HINCH
Tennessee Correspondent

SPRINGFIELD, Tenn. — Preliminary results from a tri-state growers’ survey will dominate Dr. Kelly Tiller’s talks at two upcoming University of Tennessee tobacco field days.

On July 6, Tiller – an analyst with UT’s Agricultural Policy Analysis Center (APAC) in Knoxville – will present at a luncheon following that morning’s field day at the Highland Rim Research and Education Center in Springfield, just north of Nashville. On July 20, she will be in Greeneville in northeastern Tennessee to speak at that field day’s luncheon at its Research and Education Center, as well.

She expects to focus on the aftermath of the 2005 tobacco quota buyout (passed by Congress in late 2004), with respect to the gathering of production information. “With the (quota) program in place, we had lots of data in place about who was producing, what was being produced, etc.,” she said.

With the federal government no longer collecting such information; however, she explained it has become difficult to know what’s going on in burley tobacco.

“Information is a good thing,” Tiller said. “It makes a market run more efficiently.” Getting voluntary information from growers isn’t easy. From a business point of view, farmers may not want to give up what they see as “trade secrets.”

Several also worry about unintentionally inviting more federal regulations governing their farms.

The APAC survey – randomly mailed in mid-May to 6,000 buyout-recipient growers who produced in 2002, 2003 or 2004 in Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina – was funded by the Burley Stabilization Corp. Tiller explained at most, she did not expect to receive more than 3,000 completed surveys; since she estimates perhaps half those previous growers are no longer producing tobacco.

As of last week, she had received about 700 finished surveys. These represent just a little over 11 percent of the total, but “we should be able to get statistically valid data from these,” Tiller said, adding her intent is to collect general data, not specific information identifying each farm.

Rob Ellis, director of the Greeneville center, explained his and the Highland Rim station often collaborate on research projects. Last year was Ellis’ first field day and his station focused exclusively on tobacco. This year, he is including forage programs for livestock producers, as well.

“There’s a lot of hay harvested in this county, and there’s a lot of cattle to eat this hay,” he said, adding while burley tobacco has historically been the county’s largest crop, he wants to attract more people to the field day (especially since the number of tobacco producers is dropping).

Ellis is planning an on-site tour dedicated to forage production, focusing on pasture weed control, rotational grazing, poultry litter application to fescue and Round-Up ready alfalfa. Another tour dedicated to tobacco will highlight new varieties and address fungal leaf diseases, trickle irrigation and efficient use of nitrogen fertilizer.

Springfield’s field day will address similar tobacco issues, as well as double-barn curing and sucker control.

It will also present new research on how curing leaf can affect its TSNA (nitrosamines, a carcinogenic chemical compound) content. Highland Rim research associate Bill Pitt explained not only can curing methods affect TSNA, certain plants in a variety tend less than others toward the compound.

“Some of it’s a little bit mysterious, still,” he admitted. “Some of it, we’ve got figured out.”

Both morning programs are free of charge and followed by sponsored lunches on-site. The Highland Rim field day begins at 7 a.m. and Greeneville’s, at 8 a.m. To learn more, contact your local UT extension office or visit www.agriculture.utk.edu/news/FieldDays

This farm news was published in the June 28, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

6/28/2006