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With improved prices and demand from tobacco companies, burley tobacco production is making a slight rebound in Hardin County.
With many growers increasing acreage, changing the companies with which they contracted, and some growing the crop again for the first time in several years, many producers this year will encounter some changes. One of these changes includes the requirement or strong recommendation of GAP certification for all contracted growers.
What is GAP certification? GAP stands for Good Agricultural Practices. Basically, it consists of training that ensures you are utilizing sound agricultural practices that promote environmental stewardship, enhance worker safety, and maintain production efficiencies all while continuing to produce a high-quality tobacco crop.
Where did this all come from? The basic answer is the tobacco companies are under increased pressure to prove they are good corporate citizens. Future regulations may also require product traceability as far as pesticide usage and other potentially harmful products. Shareholders also are demanding accountability as far as environmental stewardship and fair labor standards are concerned.
The tobacco industry also has recognized the need to streamline the Good Agricultural Practice programming as many producers are signing multiple contracts with multiple companies to reduce duplication for growers. This led to the U.S. Tobacco GAP program being launched in January.
The U.S. Tobacco GAP program will be accepted by all tobacco companies, ensuring all growers only have to attend one training per year, and there is a goal to require growers only to be subject to one inspection/audit per year. Also, only one set of records will be required to satisfy all requirements.
It is important to note this has been completely industry driven. Unlike many GAP programs for other products, the state or federal government has no requirement or regulatory control over the U.S. Tobacco GAP program. It is regulated and enforced by the tobacco industry.
So how do you get GAP certified and who provides the training?
GAP training is conducted by the University of Kentucky Extension Service, mainly by tobacco extension specialists. Several GAP training sessions have been set up across the state this spring, and while many already have occurred, here is a list of sessions offered in the vicinity:
For more information on tobacco production or U.S. Tobacco GAP Training, contact the Hardin County Extension Service at (270) 765-4121, or go to the UK Burley Tobacco website at www.uky.edu/Ag/ Tobacco.
Matt Adams is a Hardin County Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources.