Saturday, May 18, 2024

Newhouse introduces legislation to support Central Washington winegrape growers

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Wednesday, June 22, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced the bicameral, bipartisan Farm Crop Insurance Act alongside Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) to insure winegrape crops from smoke exposure. The bill requires the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) to carry out research and implement a crop insurance product that covers losses due to smoke exposure.

“Washington state’s wine industry produces some of the best wine in the nation and we need to keep it that way. Right now, the industry faces billions of dollars in losses from wildfires and smoke exposure,” said Rep. Newhouse. “I am proud to co-sponsor this critical legislation that will ensure our winegrape growers and producers get the necessary funding to be resilient and continue to produce high-quality wine

“Winegrapes are essential to economies across our country, and states like California, Oregon, and Washington have been disproportionately exposed to wildfires leading to smoke exposure impacting our winegrapes. Researching the impact that smoke has on our winegrapes and other crops is essential in advancing solutions that will protect these key economic drivers from future natural disasters. Proud to work with Rep. Newhouse and Sen. Padilla to introduce legislation that strengthens crop insurance for winegrowers and helps fully capture the risks associated with growing in these smoke- and wildfire-prone states,” said Rep. Thompson.

“Washington state is the second-largest wine producing state in the country, creating thousands of jobs and fueling tourism across the state. Washington is also seeing an alarming increase in wildfires year after year, which creates a serious smoke exposure problem for winegrape growers across the West Coast. Vineyards in Washington state and all the way down to California need a crop insurance policy for smoke-exposed winegrapes, rather than being forced to rely on ad-hoc disaster assistance from year to year, and that’s what this legislation will provide. I’m proud that research at Washington State University has played a leading role in studying the impacts of smoke exposure, and this bill takes a critical and needed step to protect our state’s vital wine industry,” said Senator Murray.

“As climate change intensifies and wildfires become more frequent and extreme, we need to protect winegrape growers and consumers against the damage caused by prolonged smoke exposure. Winegrape growing regions are critical to our economy, especially in California. Growers, vintners, and consumers alike have a stake in the sustainability of winegrowing communities—these bills will help growers make informed decisions about harvesting and selling their crops,” said Senator Padilla.

Background: Winegrapes exposed to smoke from wildfires can introduce compounds into the winemaking process that cause smoky, ash-like flavors and result in wines unfit for commercial sale. These off-aromas and flavors become more pronounced over time as wine ages. The legislation requires research and development of a crop insurance product that provides comprehensive coverage for smoke-impacted winegrape growers. The bill also helps to mitigate future financial losses in these key regions of production.

Rep. Newhouse serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional Wine Caucus (CWC), which protects the interests of our vibrant wine community from grape to glass. Members of the CWC are joined not only by their deep appreciation of wine, but also their understanding of the wine community's significant economic impact. Wine is produced in all 50 states and generates jobs and revenue in both rural and urban areas. The wine community contributes an estimated $220 billion to the U.S. economy annually and creates the equivalent of more than one million full-time jobs.

In Washington State, there are more than 800 wineries and over 250 wine and grape growers. The wine industry generates over $9.5 billion in total economic activity with over 14,000 acres of vineyards and 60,000 jobs created and supported by the wine industry. With 14 unique AVAs across the state, Washington's wine industry continues to grow and produce high-quality varieties that are enjoyed all over the world. In addition, Washington State University is one of the country's leading viticulture research institutions and one of only 14 universities in the United States to offer a Viticulture & Enology degree.

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