Uncertainty in the Burley Industry
There is uncertainty in the workforce due to impending changes in the immigration laws, in weather, in crops insurance, and in demand for burley. Along with these come the uncertainties in the larger market with the growth of the liquid nicotine delivery systems and the increasing restrictions on smoking.
If there was ever a time for growers to come together in unity and speak with one voice, that time is now. I am proud to say that the Council for Burley Tobacco is working hard on behalf of burley growers to be that unified voice to address some of the uncertainties that farmers are facing in the industry.
The biggest uncertainty for growers as we look to the season ahead is what the market demand will be for burley tobacco. Market sources are saying that there is currently too much burley in the world market, making this upcoming year an adjustment year for the world burley market. This could result in U.S. burley demand being off by more than 15-30% in the year ahead, which could lead to many producers losing contracts and being left with tobacco in the barns.
The Council has recently started dialogues with tobacco company leaders to discuss market opportunities for U.S. burley on the national and international markets. We recognize the decrease in demand worldwide for burley, but we also believe that GAP certified U.S. burley is a premium product. We believe it is time to act boldly and not just provide companies with product, but work with them to make sure U.S. burley is not left in the barn as demand continues to decrease.
The Council is also engaged with congressional leaders on key political issues impacting our growers, such as labor laws, crop insurance regulations, and the FDA review of liquid nicotine deliver products.
The Council is focused on investing your check-off funds into projects that will provide long-term benefit to our growers. Since establishing a research and education grant program in 2013, the Council has invested $381,539 on tobacco research projects. While many of those projects are still underway, farmers can view finished research projects on the Council’s website under the grants tab.
The Council continues to work hard to keep you, our grower members, informed on all our activities with our monthly e-news and postings on the Council’s Facebook page. This winter I encourage each of you to take a few minutes and visit www.councilforburleytobacco.com to learn more about the Council and sign up to become an active member.