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An Industry in Crisis

by: Darrell Varner, President Council for Burley Tobacco

In January I attended the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina annual meeting and saw that our flue-cured farmers are just as uncertain as our burley growers about the future of the tobacco industry.  In their annual report, Tobacco Growers Association President Steve Griffin stated, “The harsh reality as we begin 2019 is that we are an Industry in Crisis!” Sadly, we in burley have known this for five years.

Farmer price stagnation, international production, consumer trends, and the consolidation of companies are all factors over the last decade that have changed the world of the tobacco farmer.  Add to that list challenges with weather, trade, and labor; and it is easy to see why all tobacco is really an industry in crisis.

The good news is that our tobacco farmers do not have to face this crisis on their own. The Council is working across state lines to strengthen alliances with other tobacco organizations, including Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina and the Burley Stabilization Corporation. We all realize that there is strength in numbers, and if we are the voices for our grower members, it is important for all tobacco growers—burley, flue-cured, and dark fired—to work together. 

The Council continues to work toward increased dialogue with tobacco companies. Altria representatives met with burley growers and Council board members in the fall in Woodford County and in January in Daviess County to discuss issues in the industry. The Council is working with British American Tobacco/Reynolds and Philip Morris International representatives to schedule meetings this summer to give growers the opportunity to engage with these companies. 

I invite burley growers to join the board on Tuesday, March 19 at the Council for Burley Tobacco annual meeting at the WKU Campus in Glasgow, Kentucky.  Our keynote speaker will be Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles, and we are inviting legislators and congressional leaders to join us for this annual event. We want to give our growers the opportunity to learn more about political and market issues that will be impacting our industry in the season ahead.  Following the meeting will be a GAP training at the nearby Trojan Academy.

To register for the 2019 Council for Burley Tobacco meeting, visit and follow the registration link on the home page. Registration is free for all burley tobacco farmers, but pre-registration is required so that we have an accurate count for the meeting meal.  If you are unable to attend the annual meeting, then we still encourage you to visit the website and renew your Council membership to make sure we have up to date information for you to receive our newsletter and tobacco news.

Published: February 2019 in Farmers Pride

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