Dates set for winegrape grower referendum

February 2, 2015 9:22am

•  Ballots to be mailed next month

•  Growers being asked about assessment for research

California’s winegrape growers get to vote in March on whether they want to continue to pay an assessment to fund research into Pierce’s Disease and the insect called the glassy-winged sharpshooter, which carries the disease, which can kill entire vineyards.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture says current plans call for the ballots to be mailed on or about March 30. The ballots will be due back 30 days after mailing, although this date can be extended. The results of the vote will be announced about two weeks after the voting period concludes.

Since 2001, the assessment has been one of the primary sources of funding for research on the disease and the sharpshooter.

In 2010 winegrape growers voted to not only continue the assessment but authorized the Pierce’s Disease/Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter Board to spend assessment funds for research and outreach on other pests and diseases that are serious threats to California winegrapes. Since then, the Board has designated the European grapevine moth, red blotch, vine mealybug, and brown marmorated stink bug as serious threats to winegrapes.

Growers (whether individuals or companies) who paid the assessment on grapes grown in 2014 are eligible to vote. Accordingly, growers will receive a ballot for each of the separate legal entities they represent.

The CDFA says growers are urged to verify that the number of ballots they receive is correct and report any discrepancies to CDFA. Winegrape growers with any questions about the assessment can contact the CDFA Pierce’s Disease Control Program at (916) 900-5024. Questions about the referendum (including the number of ballots received) should be directed to the CDFA Marketing Branch at (916) 900-5018.

Pierce’s disease still has no known cure and, left unchecked, could be devastating to the winegrape industry. A study released in 2009 by the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers estimated the total annual economic impact of California’s winegrape industry at $62 billion within the state and $122 billion nationally.

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