Industry Groups Win Federal Grants

Vineyard Team, Winegrowing Alliance will research environmental issues

by Jane Firstenfeld
Industry Groups Win Federal Grants
Sacramento, Calif. -- Federal grants in excess of $1.3 million were awarded to 12 California agricultural projects. The grants were announced today by California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary A.G. Kawamura, who congratulated the recipients and said, "By funding research with federal programs such as this one, we can jumpstart other innovated practices in agriculture to benefit the state as a whole."

The funds are intended to address marketing, nutrition education, environmental compliance, pest prevention and crop production. CDFA will contribute fiscal oversight, technical assistance and direction to assure compliance with federal and state requirements.

Of special interest to the grape and wine industry is a $100,000 grant to the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), funding a collaboration among industry and academic partners to examine data pertaining to CO2 emissions and offsets to greenhouse gas. The goals are to gain a better understanding of the industry's greenhouse gas footprint, accelerate development of mitigation measures, and prioritize research needs.

CSWA executive director Allison Jordan told Wines & Vines that the organization will partner with groups including Allied Grapegrowers, California Association of Winegrape Growers, the Farm Bureau, the Tree Fruit & Grape League and Sun-Maid to research environmental issues in table, raisin and winegrape vineyards. "We'll collaborate with UC Davis scientists and identify a post-doctorate student to come out with a user-friendly report, based on science, that growers can understand."

The report will address emission reduction and mitigation in the vineyard, including use of solar power, and look into "Opportunities that we think exist within the vines themselves, for carbon sequestration, nitrogen management and the like," Jordan said. The intent is to address and find solutions for existing gaps in sustainable vineyard technologies.

Industry Groups Win Federal Grants
The Central Coast Vineyard Team (CCVT) also received a grant. Its $85,710 award is designated for "testing the waters" of consumer demand for sustainably grown wines, using standards developed by CCVT during the last decade. "This will be the final step in that long-range vision, to show whether the marketplace is ready for the sustainable label, and whether, through an intense marketing effort, these wines can command a price premium that will entice growers to commit more acreage to conservation farming practices," according to the "Project Purpose" statement on the CDFA's website, cdfa.ca.gov/.

CCVT and those who attend its Sustainable Ag Expo in Paso Robles, Nov. 1-2 will get a preview of consumer views on sustainable products in general. Kate Peringer, marketing manager for The Hartman Group, will present "Sustainability from the Consumer Perspective, based on findings from "The Hartman Report on Sustainability: Understanding the Consumer Perspective," released this year. Wines & Vines is an expo sponsor; for details and registration, visit sustainableagexpo.org.

Announcing Peringer's appearance, CCVT's Jill Whitacre, program coordinator for the expo stated, "It's very important that the sustainability movement addresses the economic issues that affect our food system. It is thrilling to see farmers and ranchers beginning to be recognized in the marketplace for producing food in a way that benefits farms, the communities where they live, the environment, and also provides income for themselves and their employees."

"It's gaining momentum very quickly," Whitacre commented to Wines & Vines about consumer awareness. "With recent food safety concerns, people are beginning to recognize that their food comes from farms, not the supermarket. There is a definite trend toward a more involved consumer."

The new grant will fund a review of current and emerging consumer perceptions of sustainable farming, Whitacre said. The review will also address what language is most meaningful for consumers. "Does 'sustainable' mean the same thing to consumers as it does to our industry?" she asked. If not, the study will seek to define what terminology will most effectively convey the sustainability message to consumers of California wine, and best motivate them to pay a premium for those that are sustainably produced.

Also of note to the wine industry are grants to the Buy California Marketing Agreement, of which the Wine Institute is a member; and UC Davis projects to evaluate natural products herbicides and mechanical weed control.
Currently no comments posted for this article.