Ohio Invests in Winegrapes

State will subsidize high-quality plantings to supply new wineries

by Linda Jones McKee
Ohio wine trails
As Ohio's wine industry continues to grow, the state plans to subsidize winegrape plantings.

Wooster, Ohio -- Grapegrowers in Ohio have the opportunity to get some financial help with the costs of planting winegrapes next spring. The Ohio Grape Industries Committee (OGIC) created a new program, the Vineyard Expansion Assistance Program (VEAP), to encourage growers to establish new vineyards or to expand existing ones.

A total of $38,000 is available through the United States Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant program. The VEAP funding will cover only the cost of the winegrape vines planted. Each grower may apply for up to $3,000 per acre, with a maximum of three acres.

According to Christy Eckstein, executive director of the Ohio Grape Industries Committee, new wineries have been opening in Ohio at a rapid rate. “The problem,” she reported to Wines & Vines, “is that many of these new wineries are not planting vineyards as well. There’s a shortage of winegrapes produced in Ohio, and we want to encourage more locally grown, high quality grapes. We view this as an incentive program, and hope to be able to build on its success using additional block grants in the future.”

In 2008 the Ohio grape and wine industry set the goal of increasing vineyard acreage by 10%, or 220 acres, within the next five years. The Vineyard Expansion Assistance Program will allow more Ohio wines to qualify for the Ohio Quality Wine program, and should increase consumer awareness of Ohio’s premier wines made from Ohio-grown grapes.

All applications for VEAP must be submitted by Jan. 15, 2010. Additional information and application forms are available online at oardc.ohio-state.edu/grapeweb. Click on “Ohio Wine-Grape Electronic Newsletter” and open the Dec. 7, 2009 issue.
When all applications have been received, a VEAP working group composed of OGIC members, Ohio State University researchers and other grape and wine industry stakeholders, will review the applications and make the final decision regarding which growers will receive funding under this program.

To be eligible for the VEAP funding, growers must meet the following guidelines:

1. Only vineyards located in Ohio may apply for the assistance.
2. The applicant must provide a written plan outlining both short- and long-term goals, as well as a clear route for the grapes to be put into the production chain (i.e., have an established winery or contract between grower and winery).
3. Each vineyard shall be established in a location conducive to growing winegrapes. Vineyard site selection will be evaluated by an OSU viticulture staff person in conjunction with the grower after the VEAP requirements checklist is completed.
4. Applicants are encouraged to utilize the recommended list of winegrape varieties for variety selection, and consult with OSU viticulture staff. At least one acre of vines must be planted to be eligible for reimbursement.
5. The grower must agree to a subsequent vineyard assessment by OSU viticulture staff during the growing season.
6. All applications must be complete and postmarked by Friday, Jan. 15, 2010. Late applications will not be considered.

For more information, contact Eckstein at (614) 728-6438 or by e-mail at ceckstein@agri.ohio.gov.


Posted on 01.04.2010 - 12:26:21 PST
This will probably not encourage new growers. The application says: “It is mandatory for an applicant to provide a… clear route for the grapes to be put into the production chain (e.g. have an established winery or contract between grower and winery.” What winery would want to contract for grapes with an unproven grower for a product three years away? And what vineyard would want to make such an investment in time and money without a contract? On the other hand, let’s assume you’re an existing successful winery with your own vineyard. You’ve already got the tractor, equipment, chemicals, maybe posts and wire. So you buy some plants and get handed $3,000 an acre. What this program does do is create some busy work for OSU… reviewing applications, “approving” sites that are already in areas of established plantings, and field trip “vineyard assessments.” I see it as a handout to existing players and a waste of taxpayer money. I hope the results of the application process will be available to the public so we can see what percentage of the money is actually going to new vineyards.
Holmdel, NJ USA

Posted on 01.04.2010 - 12:24:45 PST
Two words: vineyard welfare. The majority of this money will likely end up in the pockets of existing wineries to subsidize the expansion of their plantings. New growers are not about to step up en masse until they can be reasonably assured of making a living. Unless and until penurious Ohio wineries start paying growers more for quality viticulture and quality grapes, this money will be wasted.
Ripley, OH USA