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   June 2012                                     Common Ground; Innovative Research               NGWI.ORG

In This Issue
President's Message
Morril Act Sesquicentennial Anniversery to be Celebrated June 26 in Washington, DC

Calendar of Events

ASEV Eastern Section Conference
Traverse City, MI
July 16-19, 2012

NGWI Summer Board Meeting

Wine & Roses Hotel 

Lodi, CA

July 24-25, 2012


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The National Grape and Wine Initiative focuses on research and extension to strengthen the US grape and grape product industries in partnership with academics and government. Grapes are the nation's leading specialty crop and all industry segments including raisin, juice, fresh grape and wine created the NGWI coalition to drive research for maximum productivity, sustainability and competitiveness. NGWI aims to lead the world in consumer value and quality.  

President's Message

This week, the U.S. Senate passed a Farm Bill which would largely preserve important provisions for specialty crops, and the House Agriculture Committee is expected to convene early next month to "mark up" its version of the Farm Bill. Neither version is expected to make major changes to Title VII, which is the Research Title of the bill - in other words, both intramural and extramural funding programs are expected to remain largely intact. One big change is that the Senate's bill would create a new agricultural research foundation, affiliated with USDA, but funded largely by outside donors. On the positive side, this could mean major new investment in agricultural research. On the other hand, it is likely that foundations (including Gates, Kellogg, Rockefeller and others) would be the dominant donors - and with that comes the possibility that they would set the agenda for how those funds are spent. One could imagine a scenario in which researchers chase after these new foundation funds - and the needs of specialty crops could be left behind.


Another consideration is the status of three important specialty crop funding programs: the Clean Plant Network, the Specialty Crop Block Grants and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI). IF Congress takes action on the Farm Bill before it expires this year, the first two programs will be fine - in fact under the Senate version of the bill, the Block Grant program will go from $50 million per year to $70 million per year. However, the Senate action is a double edged sword for the Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI.) The Senate would make SCRI a program with a permanent baseline (good) but would cut the funding from $50 million down to $25 million for the first two years of the program --next year and the year after (which will make a highly competitive program even more so.) This year, there were $79 million in SCRI Grant applications which were ranked Outstanding or High Priority, and less than $50 million to distribute. Competition will be incredibly tight if there are only $25 million in funds available. And the ban on Congressional earmarks to create special programs (including those in research) continues...


If Congress doesn't take action on the Farm bill, but passes a simple extension of current authorities, SCRI would have NO FUNDING in 2013. To cover this interim period, NGWI and other specialty crops organizations called on USDA to dedicate funds from a larger competitive grants program (the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative) to address the needs of specialty crops. Previously, that program had only been used to address global food security, childhood obesity, sustainable bio-fuels, food safety and climate change.


FINALLY -- we will have official word soon on the fate of the SCRI applications NGWI and the grape industry supported for funding in this round. We expect that at least one major project will receive funding. Great progress is being made on our on-going projects - particularly on drought & salinity, genetics & genomics, and a project designed to reduce the volume and salinity of winery process water. On July 24th, the NGWI Board will convene in Lodi to review national research priorities for grapes and grape products, and consider the implications of activities in Washington. That afternoon, we will have updates from cutting edge research underway, as well as plans for up-coming work. The following day, the NGWI Board will tour Lodi area vineyards to see innovations and field trials, with a particular emphasis on a key vineyard challenge - trunk disease. That afternoon, NGWI will sponsor a grape researcher brainstorming session. A broad cross-section of researchers from several states will attend this session, which will be facilitated by NGWI Research Chair Nick Dokoozlian. Don't hesitate to call the NGWI office if you have questions about any of these issues.

Morrill Act Sesquicentennial Anniversary to be Celebrated June 26 in Washington, DC


Bill Gates, Education Secretary Duncan and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to Address More than 600 Attendees


America's public universities, what many consider the backbone of advanced education and research in the United States today, will pause to observe the sesquicentennial anniversary of the passage of the Morrill Land-grant Act of 1862 on Tuesday, June 26 in Washington, DC. This observance will take place against the backdrop of Congress considering the fate of federal funding for many of the agricultural research, education and extension programs authorized by the Farm Bill.


Written by Senator Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont and signed into law on July 2, 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln, the Morrill Act provided grants of federal lands, one of the few resources available in a time of soaring Civil war deficits, to provide states with the funds necessary to establish public colleges. The curriculum focused on "scientific agriculture" to help improve farm productivity, mechanical arts (engineering) as the country was rapidly industrializing, and the humanities deemed important for everyone.  


"The Morrill Act was the democratization of higher education at time when college was largely reserved for the children of the elite," said A۰P۰L۰U President Peter McPherson. "Morrill expanded higher education and economic mobility to the sons and daughters of ordinary people. One hundred and fifty years later, public universities enroll more than 7 million students annually, undertake over 60 percent of federally funded academic research, and work daily to solve local and regional problems. We have much to celebrate."


The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (A۰P۰L۰U) and nearly 600 public university leaders and others from government, philanthropy and business will gather on June 26, 2012 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the bill's passage during the day-long Convocation: 150 Years of the Morrill Act: Advancing the Legacy.  


Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and former chief executive officer of Microsoft, will deliver the keynote address. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will participate in dynamic panel discussions exploring the past, present and future of public higher education.