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. During the 2016 growing season, GAP Connections (GAPC) conducted six on-farm training sessions from May through August. During these sessions, GAPC followed the training model developed by R.J. Reynolds by inviting both growers and workers to the events, and by covering multiple training topics, all of which were performed by trained professionals and government agency employees considered experts in their field. During the 2016 sessions, 981 farmers and their employees received training. Farmers documented participation by scanning GAPC identification cards, and workers received cards showing the training organizations and topics.
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 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 company has provided forums where labor and agriculture specialists offer much more structured and intensive training. Over the past three years, GAPC has trained more than 10,000 growers annually on the topics of agronomy, environment and labor. They also have standardized testing of flue-cured barn heat exchangers. 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 tobacco operating companies contract to make sure the heat exchangers were 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. R.J. Reynolds is 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. 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. The new DVD will be available to growers for the 2017 growing season.