Vineyard View


Business Model for Inputs Impedes Sustainable Growing

February 2016
by Cliff Ohmart

If the goals of sustainable winegrowing are to reduce farming’s environmental footprint and produce more with less, then the input supply chain business model is an impediment to realizing those goals. Success is measured by selling more rather than less, since most input salespeople make commissions on the amounts they sell. Furthermore, many salespeople not only promote inputs to growers (primarily fertilizers and pesticides), they also provide recommendations on how to use them.

Pest Control Advisors
Many pest control advisors make commissions from the inputs they sell to grapegrowers.

Therefore, if the goal is to do more with less, the position of input supply salespeople has an inherent conflict of interest. If vineyard managers don’t apply inputs to the acres they farm, their vendor’s income will decline. If the salespeople want to make more money, then they need to sell more inputs—either by selling to more growers or selling more to the same growers.

Historically, this issue has been raised in relation to pesticide sales and use. Now that we are confronted in many parts of the United States with significant water-quality problems related to nitrates in ground and surface water, we need to recognize that the conflict of interest is not just connected to pesticides but also fertilizers, because consultants working for input-supply companies get paid commissions on their sales, too.

A divisive topic


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