A new nonprofit organization, GAP Connections, has just been launched and aims to create awareness and cultivate positive environmental and social impact through good agricultural practices. The organization offers educational materials, training and resources to U.S. tobacco growers about environmental, agricultural and labor best practices.

Acting as a clearinghouse between tobacco growers and manufacturers, GAP Connections offers a streamlined approach to free farmers from overlapping their efforts, supplying them with procedures that are simple and coordinated with industry manufacturers. This allows farmers to do what they do best – concentrate on their land, their crop and their workers.

“The goal of GAP Connections is to ensure sustainable, economically viable production of usable tobacco,” said Jane Starnes, organizer of GAP Connections. “To meet this goal it provides guidelines for agricultural practices to help growers produce a quality crop while protecting, sustaining, or enhancing the environment with regards to soil, water, air, animal and plant life, as well as protecting and ensuring the rights of farm laborers.”

The program is funded by tobacco purchasing groups and others with interest in the production of U.S. tobacco. It is delivered through partnerships with university Extension services in most of the tobacco-producing states.  GAP Connections centers on facilitating educational opportunities to tobacco farmers about crop production, managing land use, protecting the environment, maintaining a safe environment for their laborers, and more.

By creating a centralized source for information and collaboration between growers and manufacturers, GAP Connections hopes to create transparency and confidence in the processes used. From simplifying and standardizing record-keeping for growers to giving manufacturers the peace of mind that they are consistently receiving a quality product, GAP Connections can create better understanding among its various constituent groups.