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Agricultural Review

Tobacco research referendum set for Nov. 19

North Carolina tobacco growers will vote Nov. 19 on whether to continue the self-assessment to support tobacco research and education. The check-off assessment is 10 cents per 100 pounds of flue-cured and burley tobacco sold.

The Tobacco Research Check-off, which started in 1991, has allocated about $300,000 annually to tobacco-related projects at N.C. State University. The previous referendum passed with more than 92 percent support.

Funds from the check-off are allocated by the N.C. Tobacco Research Commission, which includes the N.C. Agriculture Commissioner, the chairman of the N.C. Tobacco Foundation, and the presidents of the N.C. Farm Bureau Federation, the N.C. State Grange and the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina.

If two-thirds of growers vote in favor of the referendum, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will continue to collect the check-off funds at the points of sale at all North Carolina leaf receiving stations and auctions. Any person eligible to vote on the self-assessment must share in the risk of the costs of production for flue-cured or burley tobacco.

“This referendum is extremely important for the future of tobacco production in North Carolina,” said Keith Oakley, president of the N.C. Tobacco Foundation and state check-off coordinator. “Federal funding for tobacco research ceased in 1994, and state support has declined in recent years due to state budget reductions. These factors led to the creation and need for the continuation of this self-help program of tobacco production research and education to help tobacco growers.”

Since the tobacco buyout in 2004, North Carolina has increased its share of tobacco production in the Southeast. North Carolina flue-cured production has increased from two-thirds of the acreage produced in the Southeast to more than 80 percent. Tobacco continues to be the highest-value row crop produced in the state with farm gate sales value in 2014 in excess of $900 million. The North Carolina increase has been partly because of competitive advantages related to production research and education. Burley production has been reduced.

Dr. Richard Linton, dean of N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said the check-off funds have resulted in many important developments for the state’s tobacco farmers. Among the projects and advancements funded through the tobacco check-off are:

  • Annual tobacco agent training sessions and a one-week short course for about 30 young tobacco farmers and individuals with interest in tobacco production;
  • Supports required training for growers for Good Agricultural Practices certification in tobacco;
  • Variety development, especially for improved resistance to Granville wilt and black shank;
  • Improved techniques for diagnosis and sanitation to prevent transmission of tobacco mosaic virus;
  • Evaluation of chemical and physical quality of commercial varieties and breeding lines;
  • Economics of production for burley and flue-cured tobacco;
  • Evaluation of nitrogen sources and application methods for leeching adjustments to improve nitrogen management following excess rainfall;
  • Improved management strategies for weeds that contribute to weed seed contamination of cured tobacco with emphasis on integrated management of pigweed;
  • Evaluation of new fungicides for the management of all races of black shank;
  • Target spot management;
  • Supported insect management programs that have lowered production costs, protected gross and net returns, and reduced environmental impacts and residues of insecticides;
  • Evaluation of potential new herbicides for weed management in flue-cured and burley tobacco with emphasis on post-emergence weed control;
  • Evaluation of alternative sucker control programs and application equipment to reduce maleic hydrazide residues to improve marketability for international markets;
  • Evaluation of energy conservation measures of curing fuels and electricity to include the design, construction, testing and demonstration of advanced flue-cured barns.

The assessment supports research and extension work of all tobacco faculty at NCSU CALS.

For more information about the referendum, contact Keith Oakley at 919.515.9262 or


NCDA&CS Public Affairs Division, Andrea Ashby, Director
Mailing Address:1001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1001
Physical Address: 2 West Edenton Street, Raleigh NC 27601
Phone: (919) 707-3001; FAX: (919) 733-5047

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