Tobacco GAP Training Stresses Recordkeeping

6/22/2013 7:00 AM
By Teresa McMinn Southeastern Pa. Correspondent

NEW HOLLAND, Pa. — While most tobacco growers probably don’t want or need more chores, new requirements will add paperwork to their daily routine.

That was part of a message delivered at a recent meeting to help educate farmers on the Tobacco Good Agricultural Practices program.

T. David Reed, a Virginia Tech Extension agronomist, was in Lancaster County, Pa., to give a presentation on the GAP program for tobacco production.

Roughly 200 tobacco growers were at the event, which was held at the USA Burley Receiving Station in New Holland, Pa.

“The whole point is to introduce Tobacco GAP,” Reed said adding that companies that purchase and process tobacco anticipate they’ll be required by the United States Food and Drug Administration to better describe their products. “This is just a continuation on down to the farm.”

The new GAP training program was developed about 18 months ago by members of the tobacco industry including universities, grower associations, state departments of agriculture and manufacturers, he said.

The program highlights the importance of record keeping for growers, crop, labor and environmental management, he said.

The standardized training provides growers an informational booklet and is approved by most tobacco industry members, Reed said. The program is not related to the vegetable GAP program.

Reed said GAP training is intended to ensure tobacco is produced with sound agronomic practices, proper concern for environmental stewardship and complies with required labor practices and worker safety training.

The current program recommends growers take the training once, not annually, he said. In terms of following GAP instructions, tobacco growers are probably most concerned with the amount of documentation involved, Reed said.

“There’s still a lot of record keeping,” he said. “Record keeping requires time, and time is money.”

Reed said Extension services that work with various land grant universities in states that produce tobacco continue to give production recommendations in areas including fertilization, pest and curing management.

Growers should take full advantage of the information that is available, he said.

In July 2010, Philip Morris USA and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company began conducting on-farm GAP assessments with direct-contracted domestic growers, said Rolanda Rascoe, communications official for Richmond, Va.-based Altria, which owns the companies.

“The assessment included questions that evaluated compliance with selected contractual and regulatory requirements in the grower contracts as well as the understanding and use of additional good agricultural practices,” she said via email. “In 2012, PM USA and USSTC continued the on-farm GAP assessment process.”

“Growers that attend industry tobacco GAP training receive a certificate of attendance,” Rascoe said. “There is no industry Tobacco GAP certification at this point in time.”

Altria spokesman David Sylvia said the GAP program was designed to create “a positive effect on the entire” tobacco supply chain.

“We work with thousands of growers,” he said.

“Having good agricultural practices is something that’s been important to us for a number of years now,” he said.

Tobacco GAP training programs will be held:

June 25 in Loganton, Pa.

June 26 in Quarryville, Pa.

June 27 in New Holland, Pa.

For more information, call 434-292-5331 ext. 224.

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