The U.S. Tobacco GAP Program
In 2013, the United States Tobacco Industry initiated the U.S. Tobacco Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Program. At present, the U.S. Tobacco GAP Program is organized and housed by GAP Connections, Inc. in Knoxville, Tennessee. A brief description of the US Tobacco GAP Program from the GAP Connections website is below.
“The U.S. Tobacco GAP Program was developed over several months with industry collaboration consisting of tobacco manufacturers dealers, state departments of agriculture, universities, grower associations, and other farm organizations such as Farm Bureau from across the tobacco growing regions. It is an industry-wide program that aims at ensuring sustainable, economically viable production of useable tobacco and can be defined as: agricultural practices which produce a quality crop wile protecting, sustaining or enhancing the environment with regard to soil, water, air, animal and plant life as well as protecting and ensuring the rights of farm laborers.”
Ultimately, the U.S. Tobacco GAP Program seeks to ensure that U.S. tobacco is produced in a manner that is competitive, sustainable, compliant, and safe for all involved parties. To promote compliance, tobacco producers are trained on the Principles of GAP at annual certification events conducted by the respective Cooperative Extension Services of the tobacco producing states. In addition, the United States Department of Labor provides training and handouts for the Labor component of the program. In 2014, over 9,700 growers from 19 states were trained on the Principles of Tobacco GAP by land-grant Extension programs.
The U.S. Tobacco GAP Program is still evolving and it is predicted that in the coming seasons producers will have access to a variety of electronic record keeping software and possibly more training options. In 2014, GAP Connections piloted unified industry audits and given the success of that program will continue in 2015 to expand the unified audit program, auditing roughly 700-800 growers across the tobacco growing states.
In general, the U.S. Tobacco GAP program is an industry program not a governmental program and addresses concerns in crop production and agrochemical management like many other GAP programs but does not have the same focus on foodborne illnesses and sanitation as in fruit and vegetable GAP programs. In comparison, there is also additional focus on environmental and labor management practices which do not appear in many of the traditional GAP programs. While there are similarities between many GAP programs compliance within the U.S. Tobacco GAP does not mean compliance with any other GAP program.
For additional information, contact your local Cooperative Extension Office.