One of the farmers at the show with a big decision to make was Clark Wooten of Dunn, N.C., who  talked to Southeast Farm Press while checking out flue-curing barns at the show. He said he is contemplating a major change in the crops he produces in the near future.

For most of the last 20 years, he has been primarily a sod producer, selling bermudagrass, zoysia and sods of other types. In response to the higher grain prices, he has put in some corn, wheat and soybeans the last few years.

But now he is thinking about a more drastic step.

“I am seriously considering getting back into tobacco,” he said.

“With the decline in the economy, the sod business has shrunk, so this might be a good time to get back into tobacco.”

He thinks he would benefit from what in effect would be a 20-year rotation. “We have gone so long without growing any tobacco at all that I just can't imagine we have much black shank in the soil.”

Until 1993, his farm had been a tobacco operation.

“But we were going to have to buy new balers and to convert from rack barns to box barns,” he said. “At the same time, we were expanding in sod. There was a limited amount of funding, and we decided we would put it into our sod operation.”

He likes the advances that have been made in tobacco mechanization. “I think now it is possible to raise quality tobacco with mechanization equal to the quality you get with hand harvest,” he said.

“I think mechanization — as opposed to production by hand — is the way to go in tobacco.”

Tobacco will in all likelihood make its return to the Wooten farm soon. “But more likely in 2014 than 2013,” he said. “We don't have time to make the change this year.”

 

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It appears the tobacco market is going to need more U.S. tobacco in the immediate future and probably farther on out, said Ron Taylor, owner of Taylor Manufacturing Co.

“But the  barns that are out there now are over-utilized. We need substantially more new barns to produce the tobacco our customers want.”

At the same time, he said growers need to compete more effectively with other tobacco-producing countries.

“Energy-efficient curing is one way to accomplish this,” he said. “Here at Taylor Manufacturing, we are making barns out of insulated paneling that will be more energy efficient.”