by Tamara Scully
Ballots have already been cast by the eligible New York grape growers who have more than two acres of grapes in production. The ballots, which were due back by early September, determined whether or not grape growers in the state would be funding a Market Order to promote ongoing research and education to benefit grape growers statewide.
With an estimated 1,400 growers receiving ballots and a grape and wine industry worth over five billion dollars per year, a Grape Market Order would generate funding to keep New York’s grape industry — second in the nation only to California — in top form.
The Market Order would have passed under any of three scenarios: If two-thirds of the returned ballots vote “yes.” If 51 percent of the growers, who cumulatively represent 65 percent of the crop quantity marketed, vote their approval. Or, if 65 percent of the growers, representing at least 51 percent of the total crop marketed, support it.
The results of the ballots showed that of the 336 valid votes received, those in favor numbered 197 growers, with 149 opposed. The tonnage represented by those in favor was 50,457 tons while those in opposition produced 50,662 tons of grapes. The ballot did not pass by any of the three alternate criteria established.
Sam Filler, Executive Director of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, acknowledged that there was great variability seen in the votes by region. While Finger Lakes voters overwhelmingly supported the Market Order, with 72 percent of the ballots received in favor, those in the North Country were opposed, with only 43 percent approving.
Evolution of the Order
In the fall of 2016, a petition from the New York Wine and Grape Foundation seeking a Market Order to fund research and education for wine and grape production was submitted to Robert Ball, the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Initial public meetings were held during the fall and winter to discuss the feasibility and desirability of the plan among grape growers.
During the summer of 2017, grape grower meetings were again held across New York State with the purpose of encouraging support for the Market Order — also known as a Research and Development Order. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Urban Development Corporation administer these funding streams, which are grower funded, grower supported and led by a grower advisory board. These funds, which will be mandatorily collected from all grape growers generate revenue for industry-specific research.
The New York Wine and Grape Foundation is an advocate of the Market Order and has been encouraging those involved in growing grapes to vote in favor of the mandatory assessment. The amount due per farm is assessed based upon the farm gate value of the grapes and will be no more than .005 percent of the value of all juice and wine grapes grown. The actual value of the grapes, rather than the tonnage produced, was determined to be more equitable, as the value of grapes can significantly vary by variety.
To oversee the use of the Market Order funds, an advisory board of seven grape growers representing the grape growing regions of the state — Lake Erie, the Finger Lakes, Long Island, the Hudson Valley and the North Country — will be selected by grower nomination should the Order be approved. A juice grape processor, along with a wine grape processor, will also sit on the advisory board. This board will determine the amount of the Market Order assessment to be collected from the growers and will oversee the research and extension programs funded. The Market Order will be eligible for renewal every seven years by grape growers vote.
Value of a Market Order
Dairy, apple, cabbage, sour cherry and onion growers in New York all have Market Orders, generating a combined two million dollars in funding. The total revenue, should the Grape Market Order pass and the top assessment rate be approved, would generate at least $240,000 dollars per year for grape research, according to data from the New York Wine and Grape Foundation.
The New York Wine and Grape Foundation solicited grape growers to provide their reasons for supporting the Market Order and has produced a short video as well as posted grower commentary on their website:
“I do know that if we want to have research done, the industry has to pony up,” Scott Osburn, Fox Run Vineyards in Penn Yann, NY said. “A Research Order is the most fair and the most equitable.”
Research on new cultivars for the region, pest and disease control, pruning methods, harvest assessments, soil and fertility needs, pesticide and other spray application, and new equipment and technology use are some reasons growers cited for supporting the referendum. Recent research on cover crops, clean plants, botrytis bunch rot and water stress represent advancements that have had practical, everyday impact on grape growers and the New York grape and wine industry.
“The research from New York does help, because we can get research from Pennsylvania, we can get research from Maryland, we can get research from California, or Iowa, but how relevant is it, exactly, to us,” Gregory Esch of Clinton Vineyards said.
Should the Market Order have been approved, it was scheduled to go into effect for the 2018 harvest.