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Kicking off the 2023 Season
by: Darrell Varner, President Council for Burley Tobacco

Contracts have begun rolling out from companies across the burley belt.  Many growers were hoping that the tight burley supply and the increase last year in input costs would yield higher prices on contracts for next season. So far though contract prices are lower than was expected, and with other commodity prices up right now I expect to see another round of farmers walking away from the burley market.

Over the past several weeks tobacco growers have been working with University of Kentucky tobacco specialists Dr. Will Snell, Dr. Andy Bailey, and Dr. Bob Pearce, along with researchers at the University of Tennessee, on the 2023 tobacco budgets. For those who are still trying to make production and contract decisions for the 2023 season, you can find the 2023 budgets online at

USDA’s Risk Management Agency announced in late 2022 that it would moving to a two tiered crop insurance program for  burley, dark air, fire cured, and Maryland tobacco types in the 2023 season.  This change will result in RMA issuing separate price elections for contracted and non-contracted tobacco, reflecting the additional expected value of tobacco grown under contract. Also the quality adjustment will only be available for the amount of tobacco grown under contract.  In a release RMA noted that these changes will help improve the integrity of the program for the additional tobacco types and make it more sustainable going forward. I encourage all growers to talk to your insurance agent about these changes for the upcoming season.

While it is easy to get frustrated with all the changes we have faced the past few years in the tobacco industry, I have to admit it was exciting to see the crowd in January at the Council for Burley Tobacco and Burley and Dark Tobacco Producer Association (BDTPA) joint annual membership meeting.  We had almost 100 growers and industry leaders come to Bowling Green for the one day meeting to discuss industry trends, crop insurance, and the formation of the new grower association, BDTPA.  This meeting was the first step as we move forward to join the two organizations to have a single voice united for all of Kentucky’s tobacco – burley, dark air, dark fired, and wrapper.

BDTPA will work in tandem with the Council for Burley Tobacco to address issues, not just for the burley industry, but all of the tobacco industry. Along with tobacco producers in the KY-TN-IN area, producers of leaf, seed or seedlings are encouraged to join the association. To join BDTPA, contact BDTPA’s Executive Director, Joe Cain, at with your name, mailing address, email address, telephone number, and type of production.   

I encourage all tobacco growers to please take time to complete the short 2023 Tobacco Grower Survey. This survey is anonymous and confidential, but the data from the survey will allow our organizations to have a better understanding of the number of tobacco producers and their needs.  At the end of the survey producers will have the option to click thru to a separate form to share contact information with the Council for Burley Tobacco & BDTPA. The two forms are separate, so all responses on the Tobacco Grower Survey are anonymous and will not be linked to the contact information from the second form.  The survey can be found on the Council for Burley Tobacco website at

Published: February 2023 in Farmers Pride

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