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  September 2013                  Common Ground; Innovative Research                        NGWI.ORG

In This Issue
As Yogi Berra once quipped, "It's déjà vu all over again..."
Lodi Launches Virtual Coffee Shop
David Ramming Named to the USDA-ARS Science Hall of Fame

Calendar of Events

Southeastern United Grape & Wine Symposium
Dobson, NC
November 5-8, 2013

Managing Vineyard Trunk Disease Sympoium
November 5, 2013
Lodi Winegrape Commission
Lodi, CA

Wine + Grape EXPO
Napa, CA
November 14, 2013

North Coast Wine Industry Expo
Santa Rosa, CA
December 5, 2013

NGWI Annual Meeting of the Members
Sacramento, CA
January 27, 2014


Unified Wine & Grape Symposium
Sacramento, CA
January 28-30, 2014

Michigan Grape & Wine Conference
Acme, MI
February 26-28, 2014

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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.  

As Yogi Berra once quipped, "It's déjà vu all over again..." 

You probably can't help but think that when you look at the current stalemate over the Farm Bill, as we move closer and closer to the expiration of the 2008 statute, which was extended by Congress for just one year. During this year, critically important programs, including the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), and the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN) have gone unfunded. Will we face another year without this research support? Let's look at some recent actions...   


Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., told farmers that he remains pessimistic about passing a Farm Bill by the end of the month, when the current legislation expires. However, he added that lawmakers "are not giving up." Peterson, who serves as the ranking minority member on the House Agriculture Committee, said he and Republican chairman Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma "are going to try to figure out how to get this done.'' This, despite the fact that Peterson indicated there have not been discussions of Farm Bill provisions with his colleagues across the aisle during the past month.  


As reported earlier in our newsletter, the passage of the Farm Bill has been clouded by the House of Representative's decision to separate consideration of nutrition programs which now constitute about 85% of "farm bill" spending. Thursday the House of Representatives planned to vote on a separate piece of legislation, which would cut $40 billion from SNAP costs over the next ten years. The current plan is for the House to couple the nutrition bill with its "farm-only" bill and send the package to conference with the comprehensive Senate-passed farm bill.

But is this separation of farm programs from nutrition programs ultimately a good idea? Some don't think so. In an op-ed for the
Los Angeles Times, Senators Bob Dole (R-KS) and Tom Daschle (D-SC) wrote, "By stripping the nutrition title from the legislation this year, the House has severed the vital tie that helps connect our food system with those who struggle with hunger in our own backyard." Arguably, both rural and urban legislators have a stake in the nutrition title in this round.


Dole and Daschle also said "We proudly count ourselves among a series of bipartisan teams of legislators who worked past those differences to address hunger through provisions in the farm bill." Message to Congress: We made this work in the past; it's up to you to do it today.

Even if the House approves its nutrition bill, it is uncertain whether policy differences could be resolved with the Senate. There are those in the Congress who oppose not only the food stamp provisions, but any type of Farm Bill itself.

So if the Congress fails to pass a new Farm Bill, will we see another simple extension of the 2008 Act? That would be a blow to specialty crop agriculture, particularly as it relates to research. For instance, the vitally-important work just initiated by Dr. Kendra Baumgartner and her team to develop diagnostic tools and control measures for trunk diseases will run out of funding after this year. NGWI's top priority research proposal to develop sensor technology as the first step toward precision agriculture would be stymied without any federal government funding.

Additionally, funding for the NCPN would be lost and the production of the critically needed quality, disease and pest free plant materials would cease. This would not only cause an economic loss, but also reduce access to clean vines just as industry demand for vineyard expansion continues.

Besides that, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has signaled that the administration would veto an extension of the current Farm Bill, and allow the so-called permanent law enacted in 1949 to once again stand. The 1949 law sought parity between farm and city economic indicators, and would translate into huge increases in farm support payments. Clearly, the threat of reverting to the 1949 law has served as impetus to take action on Farm Bills in the past.

Will cooler heads prevail? Will we re-authorize and improve access of specialty crops to research funding and continue funding of other critical programs? Only time will tell if the long-standing connection between farming and hunger concerns will forge a path forward in this divided Congress.

Farm Bill Update:


Last night, the House passed the nutrition bill (HR 3102, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act) by a vote of 217 -210. The bill saves $39 billion from the SNAP program over a 10 year period. No Democrats supported the measure and 10 Republicans opposed. Upon House passage of the nutrition component of the bill, the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance released the following statement: 
"The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA) strongly urges the House of Representatives to move forward with the Farm Bill and appoint conferees for going to Conference Committee with the Senate. We are pleased that both the House and Senate bills address many of the critical priorities outlined by the SCFBA and continue the support of specialty crops that was established in the 2008 Farm Bill. We look forward to working with negotiators to advance legislation through Conference Committee and to the president's desk for his signature."


To this, we would add that the Congress should be mindful of the fact that SCRI and the NCPN will not be funded if Congress passes another stop-gap Farm Bill extension. Also, for those members selected to serve on the Congressional Conference Committee on the Farm Bills that the language in the House version of the Farm Bill on SCRI is better in two ways: first, it authorizes the funding for the program at much higher levels; and second, it strengthens the role of specialty crop agriculture in selecting which projects reflect industry research priorities. This would be an excellent time to remind Congress of these facts.

Lodi Launches Virtual Coffee Shop

Lodi, CA - The harvest is on - and in some cases, as much as two weeks early. For the time being, many of the local coffee shops are empty, as growers are too busy with harvest. But we are all familiar with the local gathering spot where information about the crop, pest issues, water woes and even politics are shared

Matthew Hoffman and the Lodi Winegrape Commission have taken the concept of the local coffee shop to a whole new level with their launch in August of "The Coffee Shop." Check it out at  

This week, there is a new posting by Dr. Kendra Baumgartner about controlling trunk disease. The article includes several photos to help you with detection, as well as information about avoidance of these deadly cankers. The Commission is also sponsoring a Symposium on November 5th from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Managing Vineyard Trunk Disease at Burgundy Hall in the Commission's office. Three hours of California Department of Food & Agriculture continuing education credit will be offered.

David Ramming Named to the USDA-ARS Science Hall of Fame

Dr. David Ramming

Certain rare individuals make an indelible mark with their life's work. Once such person is Dr. David Ramming, who was recently named to the USDA-ARS Science Hall of Fame. Ramming retired in January 2013 from the ARS San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center at Parlier, California.

Dr.  Ramming is responsible for developing 40 varieties of table grapes, raisin grapes, peaches, apricots and other stone fruits, and has been instrumental in developing technologies that address a number of grower concerns. According to USDA statistics, his 15 varieties of table grapes represent more than half of today's table grape production in California. 

A part of Ramming's critical work for the grape industry was creating "mapping populations" several of which are still being used in our NGWI-supported VitisGen work.  Establishing a mapping population is the first step in being able to associate genetic markers with desired traits (such as powdery mildew disease resistance).  Genetic markers can be used in breeding to identify or select seedlings that will retain desired traits.  

Also during his time as a scientist with the Agricultural Research Service he led research that resulted in a plant regeneration system that allows for the routine insertion of genes into grapes, speeding up the process for developing improved varieties. He developed an embryo rescue technique which has significantly shortened the time required for development of new table grape and raisin grape cultivars.