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ATTRA Organic Tobacco Production

A Publication of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service  1-800-346-9140  www.attra.ncat.org

By George Kuepper and Raeven Thomas, Updated by Katherine Adam NCAT Agriculture Specialist © 2008 NCAT

Contents

Foreword........................... 1 Introduction..................... 2

Tobacco Culture.............. 2 Transplant Production..................... 2 Field Growing ............... 5 Harvesting..................... 7 Curing ............................. 7

This publication is a general overview, not a detailed plan for growing organic tobacco—either for contract producers or for backyard growers.

Foreword

As of 2003, the former federal tobacco pro- gram—consisting of price supports, quotas/ acreage allotments, and no-net-cost assess- ments for burley, flue-cured, dark, and cer- tain cigar leaf tobaccos—was terminated. Growers with acreage allotments were com- pensated by means of a buy-out. That same year, the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. was acquired by RJ Reynolds, which, according to a company spokesman, planned to move production of its natural brand, American Spirit Tobacco, overseas.

References ........................ 8 Resources .......................... 8

At present, two U.S. grower networks are recruiting for contract production of organic tobacco for new product lines:

  • Organic Smoke, 2014 Redlawn Rd.,

Boydton, VA 23917

• Organic Leaf Cooperative, 2932 Newton Rd., Viroqua, WI 54665

coffee, ginger, wheat grass, vetch, clover, alfalfa and rye seed, shade and ornamental trees, Indian corn, sugar cane, CRP land, and [designated on-farm] wildlife habitat.” It is possible that no acres were planted in organic tobacco that year. [Organic acreage statistics for tobacco for subsequent years are being compiled.]

Production contracts for 2007 were signed with growers in Wisconsin, Kentucky, Vir- ginia, and North Carolina, but growers in other states are eligible to apply. The com- panies are seeking experienced tobacco growers that have organic certification already in place.

After 2003, when USDA/ERS began to pub- lish organic production statistics, tobacco was lumped in with “unclassified crops, other land.” This means that we can only say, “no more than X acres were devoted to organic tobacco” in a given state.

• Alabama........... 51 acres • Kentucky .......... 28 acres • North Carolina . 248 acres • Virginia ........ 1,079 acres • Wisconsin ..... 1,637 acres

In 2005, the latest year for which statis- tics have been published, no more than the designated number of acres shown below was devoted to “Christmas trees, tobacco,

Research on organic tobacco is being con- ducted at North Carolina State University by a former principal of Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co.

ATTRA—National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service is managed by the National Cen- ter for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and is funded under a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service. Visit the NCAT Web site (www. ncat.org/sarc_current. php) for more informa- tion on our sustainable agriculture projects.

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