Growers are required to receive annual training in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), which sets best practices for environmental, agronomic and labor issues. We also work to create and support on-farm worker training to provide access to information and equipment for necessary safety training.
Good Agricultural Practices
R.J. Reynolds has long supported training and provided materials to farmers and 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 tobacco operating companies 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, we 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 company has provided forums where labor and agriculture specialists offer much more structured and intensive training. Over the past three years, GAPC has trained over 10,000 growers annually on the topics of agronomy, environment and labor. They also have standardized testing of flue-cured barn heat exchangers, which were adopted by the industry to reduce tobacco-specific nitrosamines. This protocol requires testing of curing barns every three years. Prior to GAPC, R.J. Reynolds was already testing curing barns on farms with which RAI operating companies contract to make sure the heat exchangers are functioning properly.
Departments of Labor
R.J. Reynolds engages with government agencies and nonprofits to promote good working conditions at its suppliers’ farms. Since 2008, the company has supported work by the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) and U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) to present educational programs for growers and migrant workers in English and Spanish. Since the pilot in North Carolina, R.J. Reynolds has collaborated with NCDOL, USDOL and other state departments of labor to expand the program to Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee. To date, more than 2,900 growers and their employees have been trained through this program. The company is proud to be the only company to partner with USDOL and these state departments of labor to ensure training is available in Spanish. For more than a decade, R.J. Reynolds has funded safety training DVDs and other materials in both English and Spanish, making them available to farmers and their employees free of charge.