Flue-cured tobacco growers are being encouraged to retrofit existing curing barns with heat exchangers before July 1, 2001 if they wish to be eligible for price supports next year. But growers who have carryover tobacco from the 2000 crop MAY be eligible for price support on that tobacco in 2001.

The Tobacco Industry Leadership Group met in Raleigh on Aug. 31 to discuss these and other issues concerning flue-cured tobacco.

Arnold Hamm with the Flue-Cured Tobacco Cooperative Stabilization Corporation reports that Stabilization has paid for more than 2,200 barn conversions so far this year. He expects growers to apply for reimbursements for converting up to 6,000 barns this year. The average reimbursement per barn to date is $2,566. Growers had until Sept. 1, 2000, to retrofit barns and be eligible for reimbursement of up to $3,000 per barn.

The maximum reimbursement amount dropped to $2,600 per barn after that date and until July 1, 2001.

Growers who converted barns prior to Sept. 1, 2000, must have their completed reimbursement applications submitted and postmarked on or before Sept. 30, 2000.

Rumors have circulated in several tobacco counties that the barn conversion program has been called off. Those rumors are not true. The Tobacco Industry Leadership Group encourages all growers who intend to grow and cure tobacco in 2001 to make arrangements to have their barns retrofitted with heat exchangers before the July 1, 2001 certification date.

The leaders are proposing that growers will have to certify that tobacco from the 2001 crop has been cured in barns that do not allow the tobacco to come into contact with products of combustion from the curing fuel, if they wish to receive price support.

The leaders also stated they will strongly recommend that all carry-over tobacco from the 2000 crop, regardless of the type of barn it was cured in, should be eligible for price support.

The Commodity Credit Corporation will make a ruling on whether or not tobacco that was not cured in barns fitted with a heat exchanger will be eligible for price support.