New York Wine Growers Voting on Assessment

Referendum votes on a new grape research order due by Sept. 8, could raise $250,000

by Linda Jones McKee
scandanavia u.s. wine sales
New York growers are deciding on an assessment to support a market order that would fund research into mechanization, vine disease and other programs to assist the industry.

Albany, N.Y.—Members of New York’s growing wine industry are deciding now if they want to impose an assessment on their grapes in order to fund a program to support research to help improve grape growing in the state.

Ballots are due Sept. 8 on the decision to support a statewide “Grape Research and Development Order.” More than 1,400 growers are eligible to vote on the proposed assessment that could raise $250,000.

The grape industry in New York is the third largest producer of wine in the United States and the second largest producer of juice grapes, but the state does not have a consistent, reliable source of funding for grape research. A year ago, the New York Wine and Grape Foundation (NYWGF), the New York State Wine Grape Growers and the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program, Inc. came together to submit a petition to the N.Y. State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) to create the market order that will provide a grower-supported, grower-funded, and grower-led funding stream for research.

A series of six public meetings were held in June and July by NYSDAM in five regions across the state: one each on Long Island, in the Hudson Valley, Watertown (the 1,000 Islands region), and the Finger Lakes, and two meetings at the Cornell Lake Erie Laboratory. The intent was to gather grower feedback about the proposed Grape Research and Development Order and, since those meetings, the department has been collecting additional comments via email.

Sam Filler, executive director of the NYWGF, said the public meetings “turned out really well. Many growers participated in the meetings and they were able to learn more about the order. We learned more, too.”

Ballots for the referendum vote on the market order were mailed by NYSDAM in mid-August to all growers with more than two acres of grapes planted. Filler estimated that between 1,400 and 1,500 growers are eligible to vote. The ballots must be received by Sept. 8 to be counted.

Why have a marketing order?
Five other agricultural commodities in New York have active research and development orders: dairy, apple, cabbage, onion and sour cherry. For example, the apple industry established the N.Y. Apple Research and Development Program in 1990. According to the NYWGF, that program has generated more than $200,000 annually. Recently the apple growers in the state voted to double their assessment because the program has been so successful at funding programs “that address industry problems and generate profitable practices, new products and technologies.”

In promotional material for the market order for grapes, the Foundation stated, “Overall Federal and State spending for agricultural research and development has declined significantly whereas costs associated with research have increased.” Some of the reasons that research is important for New York growers include the following:

New York growers must be able to manage effects of winter injury, five major diseases, and a short and variable growing season as compared to competitors on the West Coast. With over 30 major grape varieties grown on 33,000 acres, New York’s production is among the most diverse in the United States.

Viticulture programs have brought mechanized pruning and crop adjustment to Concord growers, optimal canopy management practices for wine producers and better training systems for the North Country cold hardy grape varietals.

Grape breeding programs over the past twenty years have released seven new varieties with better adaptation to our Northeast climate, unique wine flavor profiles, and enhanced disease resistance.

Disease management programs led by specialized plant pathologists are developing management programs for fungal, bacterial and virus pathogens.

Insect and disease spray technology programs have advanced the effectiveness of IPM programs for disease and insect management, an online grape berry moth forecasting model, as well as best management practices for spray application, reduce-risk and organic alternatives and minimization of chemical drift.

The unique nature of growing grapes in New York’s quickly changing climate is both the greatest opportunity and the greatest challenge growers’ will face over the next decade. Climate change is lengthening the growing season (bloom date has advanced by seven days since the early 1960s), allowing more reliable ripening of late-season varieties, but also increasing the risk of spring frosts and mid-winter bud injury…The need for problem-solving research is most likely to increase, rather than decrease, to meet these challenges.”

How the marketing order works
The capital raised by the market order will be cooperatively administered by the New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and NYSDAM. A total of 5% of the money raised will go toward administration for the market order; the balance will fund research and extension projects that will assist grape growers.

An advisory board, established from nominations submitted by growers, will consist of seven growers (three from the Lake Erie region, and one each from the Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley, Long Island, and the North Country regions), one processor of juice grapes and one processor of wine grapes. This board will approve the research and extension projects that will be funded and will make sure that the administration of the program is done properly. Setting appropriate research priorities will require that the board communicate with growers to make sure those priorities are set annually and reflect the general consensus of the different sectors of the grape industry.

Growers can be assessed up to one half of 1% of the farm gate value of all juice and wine grapes grown in N.Y. If a grower receives $250 per ton for Concords and the Advisory Board has approved an assessment at one-quarter of 1%, the grower’s assessment would be $0.63 per ton. According to the NYWGF, farm gate value is “1) the dollar amount paid to a grower by a processor for the grapes purchased; or 2) the value of grapes grown and used by a processor, based upon the price the processor paid for the same type of grapes purchased from another grower(s) or sold to another processor(s), or another price, determined by the Advisory Board, to more accurately reflect market value.”

Assessments will be based on farm gate value, not on tonnage. Because the value of different grapes in N.Y. can range from $230 to more than $2,000 per ton, using gross receipts was the best way to make assessments fair and equitable.

All funds will be collected by the N.Y. UDC. Processors will reserve the funds from payments to growers. Those growers who sell grapes out-of-state will submit their assessments directly to the UDC and wineries who process their own fruit will submit their assessment based on the value of their fruit.

The order can be approved if two-thirds of all votes approve it, at least 65% of those growers who have marketed at least 51% of all grapes or at least 51% of the growers who marketed 51% of the grapes.

Filler told Wines & Vines that if the market order is approved, the Advisory Board would be formed this fall and that their first task would be to decide on rules and processes. The first assessment would begin with the 2018 harvest and probably would raise approximately $250,000.

Posted on 08.25.2017 - 17:25:09 PST
Great idea in California Lodi and Lake County did this 30 years ago and both regions have tremendous success in building their regions name and quality recognition. Typically they can also vote this out every 5 years.
Rick Gunier