The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a second round of assistance for producers impacted by the pandemic on Friday, with more expansive eligibility. The $14 billion program now includes wine grape growers.
The first wave of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program that Congress passed in April offered $12 billion in relief to producers who could demonstrate price declines during the spring of 2020. That requirement left out producers with fall harvests, such as wine grape growers, who continue to feel the impact of ongoing pandemic disruption to markets.
A recently released report found that the pandemic is expected to cost the Washington wine industry $298 million in wine sales and cost growers $71.1 million on this year’s harvest — a 25 percent reduction in grape sales. The report, produced by Agri-Business Consultants at the behest of the Washington Winegrowers Association, the Washington Wine Commission, and the Washington Wine Institute, follows a similar report from California that found the pandemic would cost growers there at least $437 million in lost revenue this year. Those direct losses then have ripple effects throughout a wider wine industry.
Leaders of the Washington Winegrowers Association and the California Association of Winegrape Growers heralded USDA’s announcement.
“Our challenge in this instance was making the case that just because the industry didn’t see immediate economic damage doesn’t mean we aren’t severely impacted this year,” said Vicky Scharlau, executive director of the Washington Winegrowers Association. “Most of our wineries are small, family-held operations and the impact can be catastrophic. We make some of the best wines in the world and people can’t get them.”
Having the USDA recognize the ongoing impacts to wine growers for that lost demand is very welcome news, she said.
“Since May, CAWG and other agricultural organizations have urged USDA to include wine grapes on the list of specialty crops eligible for CFAP funding,” CAWG president John Aguirre said in a statement. “In addition, Rep. Mike Thompson’s (D-Napa) leadership and the support of the California Congressional delegation proved invaluable to this effort.”
Washington’s Congressional delegation likewise stepped up to support the inclusion of wine grape growers, Scharlau said, especially Rep. Dan Newhouse, who is himself a grape and tree fruit grower.
CFAP round one
According to data available on the USDA’s website, CFAP has paid farmers and ranchers $9.9 billion as of Sept. 13. Livestock and dairy producers received $4.8 billion and $1.7 billion, respectively, while specialty crop producers received $647 million.
Apple growers received $47.9 million, pear growers received $15.6 million and blueberry growers received $17.4 million. For more data, see https://www.farmers.gov/cfap/data
In the initial rollout of the program in April, eligibility standards for demonstrating price impacts didn’t work well with how the tree fruit industry calculates prices for apples and pears. But appeals from the U.S. Apple Association, the Northwest Horticultural Council, shippers and other industry groups resulted in expanded eligibility for apple and pear growers this summer.
Applications under the second wave of funding will open on Sept. 21, through growers’ local Farm Service Agency offices. Growers can learn more at https://www.farmers.gov/cfap.