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   September 2012                         Common Ground; Innovative Research            NGWI.ORG

In This Issue
President's Message
Dr. Eric Stafne Awarded the eXtension Community of Practice Achievement Award

Calendar of Events

NGWI Annual Board Meeting  

Embassy Suites Hotel   

Sacramento, CA

January 28, 2013


Unified Wine & Grape Symposium
Sacramento, CA
January 29-31, 2013

NGWI Spring Board Meeting and Joint Meeting with USDA/ARS
USDA Agency Headquarters
Beltsville, MD
March 20-21, 2013


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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 - Jean-Mari Peltier

In our last newsletter I told you that the status of the Specialty Crop Initiatives' fate lies in the hands of Congress. Action by Congress has not yet been taken and the 2008 farm bill is about to expire. Unless a new 2012 farm bill is approved before adjournment this year, specialty crops will lose crucial mandatory research funding. NGWI has written a commentary on this important topic and the article was published in the Sacramento Bee Sunday, September 16th.  The full article is below.

Crop research will wither if farm bill fails to pass 

Obscured by the immense shadow cast by the Civil War is one of President Abraham Lincoln's most significant and enduring legacies - the creation of the land grant university system now celebrating its 150th anniversary.


In 1862, the Morrill Land-Grant College Act committed 17.4 million acres of land to all states for the purpose of establishing universities aimed at making higher education accessible to the masses while simultaneously boosting the nation's farm economy with practical research for improving the ability of farmers to feed their countrymen.


Since that time, a world-renowned network of scientists from within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), universities and cooperative extension offices across the nation have increased our country's abundance of food, fiber and fuel. In the modern era, the fruits of this ongoing commitment to research have been sustained through a series of Farm Bills approved every five years.


But the clock is now ticking on the 2008 Farm Bill, set to expire unless Congress acts before adjourning this year. Not only must Congress act, it must pass the new 2012 Farm Bill rather than merely opt to extend the 2008 measure as a stopgap approach. Otherwise, there will be no mandatory research funding for specialty crops, leaving fruit, vegetable, nursery and nut farmers out in the cold.


This may be a challenge because the 2012 Farm Bill currently before Congress contains numerous elements, including such politically-charged provisions on commodity support, food stamps, and conservation programs. But Congressional failure to act would be a travesty for specialty crop agriculture, which has reaped significant benefits from a relatively small research program first signed into law five years ago.


Specialty crops include wine and table grapes, strawberries, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, avocados, apples, carrots, peaches, raisins, nectarines, garlic, mushrooms, lettuce and dozens of other crops which are grown by farmers who feed the nation and world.


Therein lies the importance of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), which was included in the 2008 Farm Bill to expand and strengthen research for more than 250 specialty crops long overlooked despite their collective value. Specialty crops now comprise over half of the total value of U.S. agricultural production. In a short time, SCRI has resulted in game-changing innovations not just in California, where specialty crops dominate, but also in such diverse states as New York, Michigan, Virginia, Florida, Washington, Ohio, Kansas and Oklahoma.


After all, our country's preeminence in specialty crops did not occur in a vacuum. Since 1862, Congress has funded farm research, which has been responsible for real-world breakthroughs that have made agriculture a pillar of the economy and the envy of the world.


Looking at the grape industry, research impacts have been astonishing. Wine grapes and wine production have become world-renowned. Along with fresh, juice and raisins, grapes comprise the nation's largest of all specialty crops, generating $162 billion in annual revenue, $33 billion in wages and $17 billion in state and local taxes.


Our industry's experience reflects a University of California economic study that pegged an astounding 32:1 return on investment for every dollar spent on agriculture research.

Besides economic benefits, agricultural research is key to solving a host of major societal and environmental problems. It prevents crippling plant diseases that can wipe out crops. An example that hits close to home for the American wine and grape industry is the epidemic of trunk diseases, which decimate crops to the tune of $200 million in losses annually. Our industry is mapping the genome of vines in a research effort essential to combating these vineyard scourges. Another project funded by this program is developing practices to produce high quality grapes under drought conditions.


Research also protects the environment by finding ways to reduce water and pesticide use. Research helps develop sustainable farming practices. It ensures national food independence and an ample supply of nutritious fruits and vegetables for all Americans. For all these reasons Congressional delegations from specialty crop districts across the U.S. should rally to ensure research funding for specialty crops is also included in any vote.  


It is not hyperbole to assert that the land grant act of 1862 has served as a common thread unifying our nation as we've evolved from an agrarian to an industry and now to an information society. With a tiny percentage of farmers now feeding more than 300 million Americans and many more around the world, a bi-partisan approach to funding meaningful agricultural research is more important now than ever before.


If President Lincoln were alive today, he would certainly agree.

Dr. Eric Stafne Awarded the eXtension Community of Practice Achievement Award
Eric Stafne
Dr. Eric Stafne

Dr. Eric Stafne, Assistant Extension Professor Mississippi State Experiment Station, will be awarded the eXtension Community of Practice Achievement Award for his work as a member of the Grape Community of Practice (Grape CoP).  


Just a note - this isn't a typo -- eXtension (with the X capitalized, and pronounced like "E-Extension") is a term of art coined by Cooperative Extension to describe a new internet-based approach to maximize the reach of extension agents with diminished resources.The Grape CoP is an interactive web-based learning environment delivering some of the best, most researched viticulture knowledge from the recognized land-grant university experts across the United States.


"This community of practice is made up of a nationwide group of professionals with experience in grape production," stated Stafne. Expertise within the Grape CoP includes integrated pest management, plant pathology, food science, distance education, variety selection, canopy management and rootstocks, to name a few.   


Stafne's award recognizes that his leadership, creativity, and hard work have all brought the Grape CoP to a pivotal point in the history of Cooperative Extension and eXtension. As today's Cooperative Extension looks at organizational change, new audiences, dynamic content, and social media's impact on society, eXtension will be an important tool to assist in the transformation of its work and definition of the role of cooperative extension in the knowledge marketplace.


The National Grape & Wine Initiative (NGWI) has been a long-time supporter of the creation and development of the Grape CoP as an extension resource for viticulture and research findings. "While the Grape CoP is intended for professionals in the field of viticulture, hobbyists or consumers also will be able to access information about any aspect of growing and producing grapes," said Vicky Scharlau, NGWI Chairman.  


The Governing Committee and eXtension staff stated Stafne's individual contributions to the Grape CoP have been critical to Cooperative Extension's ambition to create a 21st Century Learning Network. The award will be presented at the National eXtension Conference in Oklahoma City, on Tuesday, October 2nd.