Thanks to vigorous encouragement from buyers, tobacco farmers were planning to increase plantings over last season when USDA conducted its Prospective Plantings survey in March.

Acreage projections for all but one of the major types will be higher in 2013, the farmers told the USDA surveyors.

The report — issued March 28 — estimated plantings of all tobacco at 349,630 acres, up four percent from 2012.

Among the individual types:

• Flue-cured tobacco, at 218,000 acres, was projected up six percent;

• Burley tobacco, at 103,100 acres, was projected up two percent;

• Cigar types are estimated at 4,850 acres, up nine percent;

• Fire-cured tobacco, at 16,680 acres, is up two percent;

• Dark air-cured tobacco, at 5,000 acres, is down four percent, making it the only major type to fall below 2012.

As always, there was some skepticism about the projections. But Pat Raines, a burley grower from Seaman, Ohio, who is president of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association, told Southeast Farm Press that the burley numbers were “right on target” for estimates for the states his cooperative does business in.

“Here in Ohio, acreage is going to be up,” he said. “Central Kentucky should be about the same, while western Kentucky will be down some.”

Tennessee and Virginia, according to USDA, will be down substantially, 12 percent and 30 percent respectively.

But those estimates did not go unchallenged.Paul Denton, Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist, said the 12 percent decline isn't likely to hold up. "I think by the time we finish planting, we will have crept back close to last year's acreage," he said.

Danny Peek, Virginia Extension burley specialist, said,"I can't believe our acreage in Virginia will be down that much. I was expecting a seven to 10 percent increase!"

However much is grown, Raines said, the market picture for this crop is bright, especially on the world market.

“Burley export prospects are very, very good,” he said. “I think it is better than it has been in years.”