Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tobacco Bales Giving Georgia Markets a New Look It's Opening Day $34 Million Loss Estimated in Drought

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tobacco Bales Giving Georgia Markets a New Look It's Opening Day $34 Million Loss Estimated in Drought

Article excerpt

ALMA -- The burlap tobacco sheet might join the mule, sickle

and thresher among things no longer used on the farm.

Workers at the Alma Bright Leaf tobacco warehouse were binding

tobacco into huge bales last week in preparation for today's

opening of the Georgia tobacco markets.

"This is what the future will be," said warehouse owner Julian

Rigby.

After a three-year experiment from Virginia through Florida,

the U.S. Department of Agriculture has said tobacco farmers may

sell as much baled tobacco as they want. The process saves on

both manual labor and storage space.

J. Michael Moore, a tobacco specialist for the University of

Georgia Agriculture Extension Service, said the experiment was

necessary to make sure tobacco retained its quality after being

baled.

Moore predicted it won't be long until every farmer has a baler

sitting outside his barns, and the imported burlap sheets will

be folded forever.

"They'll be museum items," Moore said of the 8-by-8-foot

sheets.

In past years, tobacco has been brought to warehouses on

sheets, just as it still is.

But in a few years, the tobacco will be baled on the farm,

Moore said. When tobacco is cured, farmers will pull it from

their barns and toss it into balers rather than loading it onto

sheets, he said.

There will be eight to 10 balers in use this year on farms and

at warehouses, including the one at Alma Bright Leaf, Moore

said.

Rigby said he expects to give the baler a good test by using it

to bind about 5 million pounds of tobacco.

For years, tobacco has been handled in the sheets tied at the

corners. A sheet of tobacco weighs about 200 pounds, about the

right size for two men to wrestle on and off trailers and around

the sales floor.

That requires a lot of manual labor in loading and unloading

and a lot of storage space, Moore said.

The bales will weigh 650 to 850 pounds, and can compress the

tobacco from 14 to 16 bound sheets into a block that will

require less space than three or four sheets of tobacco, he

said. …

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