The annual training offers opportunities for the county’s estimated 59 tobacco farmers to network with each other, something Graham Cofield likes about the sessions that focus on good agricultural practices for the crop.
“I like that this training gives producers a chance to talk about their successes or failures in the field with specialists,” noted Cofield, the Trigg County extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.
Cofield said this year’s tobacco GAP, or good agricultural practices, training offers an opportunity where specialists and growers alike can put a name with a face, and he said he believes specialists in many cases learn as much from the growers as the growers are learning from the training.
The free tobacco training continues with a second online session Tuesday, with participants able to sign up and see the training from their homes or see it at the Renaissance Center at 49 Jefferson St., if they can’t watch it from their homes for any reason.
Additionally, growers may call GAP Connections and request that the paper materials and test be sent to them when they are available. Or they can log onto their GAP Connections account and complete the training modules offered on that site.
GAP Connections, according to its website, is an organization that provides leadership for adopting ag standards and practices that produce a quality crop while protecting the environment, ensuring the rights of farm laborers and recognizing producers who are committed to a higher standard.
Cofield said some of the production GAP practices that growers are educated in would include variety selection, disease management, weed control and numerous other general best management practices such as sanitation, for example.
“The GAP labor portion updates producers in changes to the H-2A program and what that means to their operations,” he noted of the Visa program that brings migrant workers to the U.S. for temporary agriculture work. “It’s a good review of what they need to be double-checking for their employees.
“It is also a required training to keep your GAP card current, which most or all buyers will require,” Cofield continued.
University of Kentucky Tobacco Extension Specialist Andy Bailey noted that GAP training has been required by the tobacco industry since 2013 and needs to be completed by June 30 of each year in order to to execute most marketing contracts and sell a tobacco crop under those contracts.
“Basically every tobacco grower needs to complete GAP training each year, and we currently have about 2,400 tobacco growers in Kentucky,” Bailey said.
Fifty-nine of those growers are in Trigg County, according to statistics Cofield cited from the 2017 Census of Agriculture, which also identified 1,676 acres of tobacco in the county.
Bailey noted that tobacco growers attending the annual training will receive a half-hour each of crop management training, environmental management training, labor management training and updates from GAP Connections. Bailey described the Knoxville, Tennessee, based GAP Connections as administrators for the tobacco GAP program.
He said he normally offers 25 in-person GAP trainings each winter throughout the region. But this year there are only two virtual trainings, with the first one having been offered on Jan. 19.
Growers receive certification for attending.
To participate in the upcoming training, Bailey said growers may view the live session at the Renaissance Center, view a recording of the last training or view the live training from home over Zoom. To participate from home, growers should register for the training by noon Monday on the GAP website at https://shop.gapconnections.com/training/event?id=4017.
They will then receive the Zoom link and a password to access the training.
Growers planning to participate at the Renaissance Center should call the local extension office at 270-522-3269 or Cofield at 270-350-2304 to reserve a spot. Participants will see the meeting live, although Cofield said there will also be a recorded backup if needed.
He noted that Trigg County’s extension service partners with Caldwell County to offer the annual GAP training for tobacco growers.
The growers should bring their GAP identification number so Cofield can turn in the information for GAP training credit.
Pesticide continuing education units credits for commercial applicator categories 1 and 10 will also be offered, according to Bailey.
Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or firstname.lastname@example.org.