After passage of the Tobacco Buyout Bill October, 2004, the Federal tobacco program ended. This means there is no tobacco quota. There is no tobacco safety net, and tobacco can be grown by anyone, anywhere in the U.S. Obviously, many growers have chosen to exit the tobacco business, but other growers choose to remain active. The major questions facing growers for the 2010 season is, “Can I afford to grow tobacco for the price offered, especially in view of increased energy prices?” Cigarette manufacturers, flue cured stabilization, and possibly leaf dealers will offer contracts. At the time of this writing, prices have not been released. Producers will expect higher prices to defray increased input cost. Producers also will be expected to maintain and even enhance quality. Improved production efficiency is a must. Increased yield is an easy way to improve production efficiency. However, increased yields cannot be at the expense of quality. Growing tobacco cheaper, but maintaining quality through efficient management will be the key to survival.
Current Clemson budgets are based on recommendations considered cost effective. To produce the cheapest, quality tobacco, producers should pay special attention to soil fertility, pest management, variety selection, harvest and curing and yield/quality per acre. Care must be taken to insure that pest management decisions are truly cost effective. It may be necessary to leave unwanted leaves in the field.
Labor, curing, and machinery are the three greatest production inputs. Management of these inputs merits special attention. Match equipment to the acres grown. Fine tune curing barns for maximum efficiency and manage labor effectively. Producers should plant only enough acres to produce what they can sell.