Since the federal tobacco program ended in 2005, tobacco production has changed and reliable data about the industry has not kept pace with the transition.
To support the long-term sustainability and vitality of U.S. tobacco production, Philip Morris USA, in cooperation with Philip Morris International Management SA, has funded the establishment of the Center for Tobacco Grower Research at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. The center will coordinate with other land grant universities in tobacco-producing states to provide timely research in the areas of U.S. tobacco production, economics and markets.
Daniel Green, familiar throughout the tobacco community for his work with the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association and as a former Extension associate working on tobacco policy issues, coordinates the new center. Green is working with UT's well known tobacco policy analyst Kelly Tiller.
Green is excited about his new opportunity to contribute to the industry.
“The U.S. tobacco crop is expected to exceed $1 billion in value this year. Tobacco remains the most important cash crop for hundreds of rural communities,” he says. “The work of the center will benefit these rural communities, tobacco growers and others interested in the tobacco industry.”
Green says traditional production information such as the amount of tobacco grown and harvested, the amount sold, the location of growers, and conditions affecting tobacco growth, including weather, disease and labor issues has not been regularly available since 2005. “Such information is necessary to monitoring the vitality of the industry,” he says.
The center is charged with publishing regular summaries of industry-related research. The information will be available to the entire industry, including agricultural organizations and leadership, manufacturers and former, current and potential future growers.
“While the center's primary objective will be to collect and disseminate information necessary to enhance the long-term sustainability of U.S. tobacco production, research conducted by the center may improve the success of current growers or attract new or former growers to the industry,” Green explains.
Philip Morris USA, in cooperation with Philip Morris International Management SA, provided $445,000 in funding to establish the center. “Because American tobacco is the backbone of our blends, a stable supply of U.S. tobacco is very important to Philip Morris USA,” says Jeanette Hubbard, Philip Morris USA's vice president of Leaf.
“That's why we are pleased to work with the University of Tennessee to support sustainability of U.S. tobacco production through the research conducted by the center.
“The University of Tennessee has an established record of academic rigor and the UT Agricultural Policy Analysis Center is widely recognized by the tobacco community for its tobacco-related research and outreach programs.”
Among the center's first projects is to create a database of growers. Green says the center needs the database to gather information about U.S. tobacco production. Grower participation is completely voluntary and only summary data will be available to the public. Each specific grower's information will remain confidential. “The purpose of the database will be to develop accurate research analyses and summaries,” Green says.
The center will encourage grower participation by working with organizations whose members may include tobacco growers and through participation in tobacco-related events.
Green plans to publish the center's first summaries early in 2008.