As harvest got under way, the tobacco crop in eastern North Carolina appeared to have bounced back from the hurricane-induced disaster conditions of 2011.

In Salemburg, N.C, about 70 miles south of Raleigh and on the northern edge of the area damaged by Hurricane Irene on Aug. 27 of last year, brothers Sherrill and Clay Strickland were looking at a crop that appeared headed for a very respectable yield.

“We have some good fields and some bad fields, and the intense heat we had in June and July had an effect,” said Sherrill Strickland. “But now (July 15), it is looking real good overall. We got good rains a few days ago, and the top is looking very green. The bottom stalk is not much, but our tips are going to turn out really good. This crop should definitely be a better one than last year.”

That seemed to be the situation for most flue-cured growers in July.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture projected on July 11 that flue-cured production in the U.S. this year will reach 432 million pounds, up a whopping 25 percent from 2011.

Planted area for flue-cured is four percent below last year at 199,000 acres. Yield per acre is forecast at 2,173 pounds, up 507 pounds from a year ago.

But expected production was still down in South Carolina and Georgia because of fewer acres planted.

By state, the USDA reported:

• North Carolina's flue-cured was rated in mostly fair to good condition. Production levels recovered from last year's hurricane damage, with yield projected at 2,200 pounds per acre, up 650 pounds from last season. Production is estimated at 338 million pounds, up 36 percent from last season. Many farmers had started to irrigate in mid July as weather was extremely hot in many growing areas.

• Virginia — the only state to see an increase in flue-cured plantings — was progressing well in mid-July with the majority of the crop rated in fair to good condition. Production was estimated at 46.2 million pounds, up nearly three million pounds from last season on 7.7 percent more planted acreage.

• South Carolina production had been affected by unusually cool, wet weather through July which led to some reports of thin and yellowing plants. Projected yield was 1,800 pounds per acre, only 100 pounds more than in the hurricane year. Production was projected at 24.3 million pounds, down nearly eight percent from 2011 on 13 percent less planted acreage.