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These suckers that are produced as a second crop usually with heavier fertilizer is definitely inferior tobacco from the flavor and aroma standpoint, as compared with the original crop of burley tobacco.
Suckers will sell cheaper on the market. And even though the farmers appreciate the additional income, when this sucker tobacco goes into the world market and sells as standard burley tobacco, I feel that it will have an adverse effect on the future of our export trade, not only on burley tobacco but on other tobacco.
We will get you, as soon as possible, the official report of the Department of Agriculture.
Mr. ABBITT. Mr. Williams, let me ask you this just for the record: The problem is almost entirely caused by the second crop tobacco on the same planting?
Mr. WILLIAMS. That is true.
Mr. Williams. The real problem is that, let me say this, in case we do have some instances where there may be by the 1st of June a hailstorm and it cuts your original plant and you grow your first crop from the sucker, this legislation does not attempt to prevent that. But it does attempt to prevent the harvesting of a complete crop of tobacco, and applying fertilizer and water to suckers and then produce the second crop and sell it on the same allotment.
Mr. ABBITT. In other words, you are trying to prevent the harvesting of two crops of tobacco from the same plant?
Mr. Williams. That is right. That is the purpose as we interpret it of all of this legislation.
Mr. ABBITT. And in your opinion this bill would not cover a situation where hail, for instance, destroys some flue tobacco early in the year and a crop of sucker is harvested?
Mr. WILLIAMS. No, sir; until they harvest two crops in the same year, it is not covered by this legislation.
Mr. ABBITT. They harvest two crops?
Mr. ABBITT. Where was the problem, and what type of tobacco was the problem in, in 1957?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Primarily in burley tobacco. The Burley Belt had in many areas an extremely early spring, followed by an extremely late fall. They cut some tobacco in August, and farmers could not stand it when those pretty suckers grew up and produced five or six hundred pounds of tobacco, so they harvested them.
Mr. ABBITT. Have you ever had that problem with flue-cured tobacco further south, in the Carolinas or Georgia?
Mr. Williams. No. We haven't due to the fact we harvest our tobacco differently. We prime it over a period of 7 or 8 weeks. And by the time we get our original crop off, the weather is so hot it is almost impossible to produce a completely new crop. However, that is covered in this legislation due to the fact that it will prevent it in all types.
Mr. ABBITT. In the flue-cured they do not harvest their tobacco by cutting the stalk?
Mr. WILLIAMS. No, sir.
Mr. ABBITT. But by putting the bottom leaves on up to the top, for 3 or 4 weeks. Therefore, they are not as susceptible of producing suckers later on as you would have in the burley or dark tobaccos.
Mr. WILLIAMS. I think with irrigation and heavy fertilization it is a problem that will face all types of tobacco. It just happened to lead off in burley. But I think in certain areas of the flue-cured areas where we have good irrigation, our farmers will soon learn what they are doing in the burley and it will be a serious problem there.
Mr. ABBITT. Your experience tells you that the second crop or sucker crop is definitely a much inferior tobacco than the first crop?
Mr. Williams. Taken as a whole, yes. There may be some instances where the first crop would be inferior, but as a whole, the second crop is far inferior to the original.
Mr. ABBitt. You say in 1957 you had approximately 15 million pounds?
Mr. WILLIAMS. That was the estimate of the leadership that we had at the Lexington meeting.
Mr. ABBITT. That was in burley?
Mr. WILLIAMS. That was in burley tobacco alone. We took about 2 percent in the soil bank and the estimate as I detected down there, it was probably offset with suckers, what we took in the soil bank.
Mr. Watts. Mr. Williams, I believe the practice became more pronounced this year than it did in times in the past; did it not?
Mr. Williams. Yes, sir; there were more suckers harvested this year than at any former year that I know anything about
Mr. Watts. I think you probably agree with me that if the practice were permitted to continue that it will grow year by year?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Yes, sir; I think so.
Mr. Watts. In other words, if farmer A saw farmer B harvesting a crop of suckers getting four or five hundred dollars an acre out of it, he will plan on doing the same thing next year?
Mr. Williams. I think that is only reasonable. You can sell it for 60 cents a pound and then harvest five or six hundred additional pounds and you can get 37. I think there is enough incentive that farmers will do it.
Mr. Watts. In the long run, it will have a tendency, will it not, to cheapen and lower the grade of all types of tobaccos because farmers would be prone to cut the first crop of little bit earlier, in order to get the second crop started growing?
Mr. WILLIAMS. If you were going to willfully try to grow two crops it would have that effect. That is very important. It is important on every type of tobacco that you let it stay on the land long enough to properly ripen.
Mr. Watts. And this year, there were some farmers who did do it intentionally, as you said, and some who took advantage of a long fall season?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Yes, sir.
Mr. Watts. Those that did it intentionally, as I understand it, cut the crop a little early, went in and recultivated the land, refertilized it, irrigated it, and produced a pretty good second crop of suckers?
Mr. WILLIAMS. I understand that several of them produced six and seven hundred pounds.
Mr. WATTS. Per acre?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Some sold up in the 50 cents. I would say that probably it averaged 30 cents.
Mr. Watts. And it is your opinion that if this practice is permitted to continue to be indulged in and becomes widespread as some of us are fearful that it will, that the ultimate result is that it probably will be the destruction of the tobacco program; will it not?
Mr. WILLIAMS. I think it would have a harmful effect on the tobacco program because I think it is encouraging the production of an inferior type of tobacco at the expense of those growers that are producing the original crop.
Mr. Watts. Not only that, but it is putting a premium on quantity, for those who are wealthy enough to be able to provide irrigating systems.
Mr. Williams. Not only wealthy enough but a lot of small farmers adjacent to a stream, where they rig up a very cheap irrigation system can do so, also; and then in some sections they will take a dipper out and irrigate it.
Mr. Watts. I know we have some large farmers in my section that built irrigation systems; they are irrigating corn and pasture. If they are permitted to cut their crop early and turn the full force of their irrigation on they could raise a second crop every year, could they not, sir?
Mr. Williams. Where you have irrigation, I think in most years you could produce a pretty good sucker crop.
Mr. Watts. You think then that the practice, if permitted to continue, would have 2 detrimental effects; 1 is that it would add to our supply of tobacco and prevent the general farmer who is not engaged in this practice from raising more tobacco than he might be entitled to, if the sucker tobacco was kept off the market?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Yes.
Mr. Watts. And furthermore you think the inferior quality might get into European countries and be labeled “burley tobacco," and give our burley tobacco a black eye in export trade?
Mr. Williams. That is true, because it does not have the quality of the original burley tobacco.
Mr. Watts. And, personally, I feel like it was never the intention of the law that any farmer who has an allotted crop be permitted to raise 2 crops on the same land in any 1 year. My good friend Billy Matthews down there, he might raise four crops of tobacco.
Mr. MATTHEWS. I just came in, but I really am shocked to think this is happening.
Mr. Watts. It is happening and it will spread into flue-cured unless we nip it in the bud by the legislation introduced. I reckon the reason that the Department cannot give us an exact figure as to the amount that was sold is that it was difficult to distinguish suckers from the other; is that right?
Mr. WILLIAMS. There was no attempt here to segregate it officially, really.
Mr. Watts. But your estimate runs anywhere from, you say, 5 million to 15 million pounds?
Mr. WILLIAMS. That is true, and I would say a happy medium would be between the 5 million and 15 million which would probably be right; 10 or 11 million pounds.
Mr. Watts. Your opinion is that if it is not stopped that the practice will grow from year to year?
Mr. WILLIAMS. I think so.
Mr. Watts. While I could not get you exactly to say that, I think we can all realize that if it is not stopped it will do serious damage.
Mr. Williams. I think it we produce 10 million pounds of suckers, I will say that it is an inferior tobacco as compared with the other 480 million pounds that you produce. And 10 million or 15 million pounds a year, over 1 or 2 or 3 years will prevent an increase of 5 percent to all of the farmers on their original allotment.
Mr. Watts. These bills, as drawn, would not only prevent the recultivation of the original stalk where the sucker comes from, but would prevent the planting of a second crop
Mr. WILLIAMS. That is right.
Mr. Watts. I think you made it very clear to Congressman Abbitt that if a man ran into a catastrophe with his crop, like hail or flood or anything like that, he could under this law replant it, and harvest, so long as he did not harvest 2 crops off the same tract of land in any 1 year?
Mr. Williams. That is true. If a man has a disaster, he could go ahead and grow a crop from suckers. The thing that catches him under this legislation would be harvesting a complete crop and then a second crop of suckers or harvesting two crops off the same allotment in the same year.
Mr. WATTS. Mr. Chairman, before I conclude, Congressman Gregory called me this morning and asked me to express to the committee his deep interest in this legislation. He is the author of one of the bills. He said that before his committee this morning that he had tobacco people from Kentucky, who were talking about the Reciprocal Trade Act, it was impossible for him to be here, but he wanted to be on record as heartily endorsing the legislation.
Congressman Perkins made the game request. He may later want to file a statement.
My good friend Chelf is here whom I assume will want to make a statement later on.
Mr. ABBITT. We are glad to have those remarks. They have been most helpful to this committee.
Are there any further questions that you want to direct to the witness?
Mr. Bass. Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask one or two questions.
Has such legislation to your knowledge ever been introduced before, Mr. Williams?
Mr. WILLIAMS. I do not believe we have had the problem in this proportion before.
Mr. Bass. This growing of burley and the operation of the burley program is not anything new at all. It has been in existence for several years. Why has it not been brought to our attention before? What makes it serious now, and why has it not been here before?
Mr. WILLIAMS. I think two things have made it serious at the present time.
First, the irrigation which makes it possible, and, second, is the 60-cent-a-pound tobacco.
Mr. Bass. Irrigation?
Mr. Bass. Which is not completely new at all; we have had it for several years.
Mr. WILLIAMS. Yes: you have had it for several years. It has become pretty well universal where a man can finance it or where water is available; irrigation is the coming thing.
Mr. Bass. Is the fact that the type of tobacco that they grow as a second crop more usable now than it has been before; is that a factor?
Mr. WILLIAMS. More usable?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Well, in years gone by it has had very little value, maybe 3 or 4 cents a pound.
Mr. Bass. Actually, it is more usable the way they are using burley today-it is more usable than it was before; is that correct?
Mr. WILLIAMS. There is an attempt to find some tobacco that they can sell strictly on a price basis rather than quality. Competition has forced it up to where it is 30 and 40 cents a pound now.
Mr. Bass. What localities are more guilty than others in this practice?
Mr. WillIAMS. All of them. I doubt whether it is confined.
Mr. WILLIAMS. Weather is a factor. I mean where you would have 2 or 3 weeks difference in the season.
Mr. Bass. Even 10 days would make a difference?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Ten days would make possibily 100 pounds difference in the second crop in harvesting. I think it is something that will go all the way from Virginia right on through Kentucky, that all of them will grow it where the possibility is. I don't think it will show up in one State out of proportion to the other.
Mr. Johnson is from Tennessee and is more familiar with the problem so far as that State is concerned than I am.
Mr. Bass. How did you get your estimates of 5 million to 15 million pounds?
Mr. WILLIAMS. At the quota meeting we had in Lexington, Ky., where we had the-5 State leaders in, about 100 of them, and this question was raised, and the estimate was made there. The least estimate made was 5 million and the highest was about 15 million.
Mr. Bass. As you know, in the district that I represent we raise quite a bit of burley. I saw second crops being cut and taken to the barn, but I would say that it was a very, very, very small percentage of the total crop of tobacco in my area. And in previous years it was much smaller because I think we had an extremely late fall this year or late winter.
Mr. WILLIAMS. Yes.
Mr. Bass. I do not know whether we have had enough general information from the people in the field on this legislation. What do you think about it, as to the growers' position?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Well, of course, as I say, this legislation was introduced last week and even the Department has not had sufficient time