The U.S. Tobacco Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) program is an industry-wide program supported and funded by all tobacco buying and manufacturing companies in the United States. Growers are encouraged to provide ongoing training and education to workers in all elements of GAP to ensure that everyone involved in tobacco production understands the importance of working safely. GAP aims at ensuring sustainable, economically viable production of useable tobacco. GAP is defined as agricultural practices which produce a quality crop while protecting, sustaining, or enhancing the environment concerning soil, water, air, animal, and plant life, as well as protecting and ensuring the rights of farm laborers. GAP training is held by extension personnel in tobacco-producing states. Tobacco in South Carolina is ranked 5th in the United States and 19th worldwide. South Carolina produces 13.68 million pounds and harvests approximately 7,600 acres, according to data from NASS 2021 Census. Tobacco was valued at approximately $27,634,000 of production in 2021.
A tobacco farmer in South Carolina PeeDee area requested Tobacco GAP training. The local Extension agent provided a training that covers the following areas: GAP Guidelines, Crop Management, Environmental Management, Labor Management, Record keeping. After the training, a farmer commented, I believe this training will help reduce the potential for accidents on our farm. I’m glad to have the training I need to continue growing quality tobacco. Approximately 70 growers attended the meeting, and 95% obtained their Tobacco GAP renewal credits or signed up to become GAP certified. Farmers are given training materials, GAP Manual, Gap Guidelines, and farm signage. Tobacco workers and farmers participating in the Tobacco GAP training now meet the standards to sell tobacco to tobacco buyers requiring it.
U.S. Tobacco GAP assessments offer growers a chance to demonstrate their commitment to producing a quality crop while using best management practices to protect the environment and provide a safe workplace. Farmers that attended the training receive a GAP card as a convenient way of documenting their membership and recording their participation at future training events. Grower cards contain the six-digit grower I.D., full name, date of birth, and a Q.R. code. Extension Agents scan the cards after training events to log attendance, inform farmers to bring their GAP cards to each meeting, and help convey the guidelines on how and when to use their GAP cards.
Farmer participation in GAP benefits the farmer and farm worker in many ways. Third-party assessments assure customers that Good Agricultural Practices are being followed in producing the tobacco they are buying. This enhances the value of U.S. tobacco in customers’ eyes and helps the whole U.S. tobacco industry. Assessments of their farm benefit the vast majority of growers who want to produce a high-quality crop sustainably by “leveling the playing field.” They help ensure that no one gains a short-term advantage by using poor, unsustainable practices. Assessments can reduce the farmer’s risk for violation of labor or environmental regulations by identifying concerns early and providing guidance in correcting them. There are approximately 80 tobacco farms in South Carolina, primarily in the PeeDee region of South Carolina. The Extension agent(s) that work with and train the tobacco growers greatly impact the total growth and production of tobacco in South Carolina.
Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.
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