“Unavoidable delays” have moved back the deadline flue-cured farmers must certify that their curing barns have been retrofitted to reduce nitroasamine levels.

To be eligible for price support, farmers will still have to cure 2001 production, and carryover tobacco from previous crops, in barns outfitted with heat exchangers in order to be eligible for price support. Tobacco that is not cured in retrofitted barns would be eligible for price support at one half of the normal rate.

Extension requested

The Flue-Cured Stabilization Corporation asked USDA to extend the certification deadline to June 30, 2002. The original deadline was June 30, 2001.

A flood of applications and a backlog of heat exchangers made meeting the deadline next to impossible, Arnold Hamm, assistant general manager of Stabilization, told the recent annual meeting of Tobacco Associates.

While noting that most of the barns will be retrofitted this year, the delays would have pushed producers past the original June 30, 2001 deadline.

So far, 19,000 heat-exchange units have been installed, Hamm reports. Some 10,742 barns are on the books to be installed by June 30, 2001. “That would put us at around 29,562 retrofitted barns,” Hamm says.

“Knowing about some of the delays, and the fact that some of the vendors have already filled their orders, farmers are now going to have limited accessibility,” Hamm says. “I strongly believe we're not going to make it in time for the original June 30, 2001 deadline, but by the time curing season gets under way, most of the conversions are going to be done.”

Big issue

A little more than a year ago, nitroasamines became a huge issue in tobacco production. Companies began requiring tobacco farmers to retrofit barns in order to produce tobacco lower in nitroasamines.

With help from contributors, Stabilization began a cost-share program to assist farmers with the retrofits.

Nitroasamines, potential carcinogens, are caused by the combustion by-products of fuels going through the curing chambers of the barns.

On average, curing barns equipped with heat exchangers reduce nitroasamine levels more than 94 percent, says Arnold Hamm, assistant general manager of Stabilization.

e-mail: cecil_yancy@intertec.com