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Responsible Agriculture

Farmer Training

Growers are required to receive training in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), which sets best practices for environmental, agronomic and labor issues. This training is delivered through GAP Connections, which held 104 GAP meetings in 2017 at which 7523 growers received training.  Growers also received the following materials at the 2017 annual GAP Connections training events: Labor management resource guide; U.S. Department of Labor materials addressing compliance with Federal labor laws and farm worker rights; All-in-one labor poster, containing in a single document all of the legally required notices to employees; and, a Worker Rights and Responsibilities guide for distribution to workers.

In 2017, GAP Connections also held 13 On-Farm Safety, Health and Compliance events at seven different locations in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky during the months of June and July. The purpose of these events is to educate and train growers, migrant, seasonal, and local farm workers on specific safety, health and compliance topics that comply with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).

Good Agricultural Practices

R.J. Reynolds has long supported training and provided materials to growers and for their employees on key issues related to workplace safety, agrochemicals and the use of personal protective equipment. In recent years, RAI’s tobacco operating companies have supported meetings and training events that have provided contract growers a more structured and intensive training program. RAI operating companies that purchase tobacco have a contractual requirement that growers be trained in GAP prior to the farm season. These training sessions were performed by a third party at R.J. Reynolds’ expense.

In 2013, R.J. Reynolds founded GAP Connections (GAPC), in partnership with Cooperative Extension Services and other tobacco companies, to standardize and simplify the Good Agricultural Practices program. GAPC provides an online portal for growers and their employees to access training manuals and the GAP Record Book — which enables growers to gather, maintain and share with purchasers’ documentation related to their compliance with Good Agricultural Practices.

The evolution of both the GAP Connections grower training program and the On-Farm Safety, Health, and Compliance events demonstrates the need and utility of multi-lateral approaches to labor practices issues and the leadership of R.J. Reynolds in partnering with government to pioneer training programs that evolve into industry-wide initiatives. The Farm Labor Practices Group, which includes both the U.S. and North Carolina Departments of Labor, developed an enhanced labor management training program and new informational materials. This new curriculum was piloted by GAP in 2014, with presentations being delivered by representatives of the Department of Labor at 17 sites in North Carolina and two sites in Kentucky. The enhanced labor management module was revised and expanded in 2015, when it was delivered across all GAP Connections training meetings. In 2017, the FLPG and GAP Connections collaborated to revise and develop training materials used in the program. 

The On-Farm Safety, Health, and Compliance Events grew out of an on-farm training program originally offered by the North Carolina Department of Labor with the support of R.J. Reynolds. Now sponsored by multiple companies and offered through GAP Connections, the success of this training underscores the logic of R.J. Reynolds’ approach. By developing and supporting innovative programs and working effectively with other stakeholders to refine and expand the programs’ content and distribution, R.J. Reynolds is helping to promote responsible labor practices across the tobacco supply chain generally.

north carolina Department of Labor

Since 2008, R.J. Reynolds has supported the North Carolina Department of Labor’s efforts to make safety training more available to farm workers. In addition to our pioneering support for on-farm safety training, now provided by GAP Connections, R.J. Reynolds funded safety training DVDs and other materials in both English and Spanish, making them available to farmers to use with their employees free of charge. In 2016, R.J. Reynolds supported the development of a new NCDOL comprehensive training DVD. The new DVD brings together best practices for a variety of on-farm safety best practices into a single resource for farmers. These DVDs were made available to growers for the 2017 growing season. The R.J. Reynolds employee who led these efforts received a safety training award from NCDOL.