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Grapegrowers Association Calls for Better Grape Acreage Data

August 2014
 
by Jane Firstenfeld
 
 
2013 CA wine grape acreage
 

Fresno, Calif.—Grapevines are being planted in California vineyards based on faulty information, according to Nat DiBuduo, president/CEO of Allied Grape Growers (AGG), which represents nearly 600 grower-members throughout California. DiBuduo said, “NASS does a great job, but the acreage is underreported.”

DiBuduo has expressed concern for several years that wineries and grapegrowers rely too much on the annual California Grape Acreage Report issued by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), which in turn relies on voluntary reporting of bearing and nonbearing acreage, broken down by zones and grape varieties.

This, he said, gives growers a skewed idea of what varieties are in shortage, and it can have serious effects on the industry in future seasons.

AGG vice president Jeff Bitter agreed: “If people use the NASS report to invest in the wine business and plant new vineyards, this adds to the snowball effect of going from a grape shortage (or balance) to a grape overage,” Bitter said in a newsletter published by the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG).

Ron Lopp, communications manager at CAWG, stated that although the NASS acreage report has been a matter of discussion among the CAWG board, the organization is not currently considering policy changes. “We haven’t formalized any proposed actions to improve the accuracy of information,” he said.

For the past five years, AGG has conducted its own survey using voluntary information gathered from different sources: grapevine nurseries. Realistic numbers about tons per acre can be financially helpful to growers.

DiBuduo cited one example of the need for concrete acreage figures: “I got a phone call from a local tax assessor. He was going to use the NASS report in his assessment. It showed 16 tons per acre. I gave him my figures, which dropped the yield to 11 tons per acre. Because we were able to utilize better information, this was beneficial” to the landowner, DiBuduo said. 

 
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