Quality looks good, but low yields mean hardship for grape growers

This has been a difficult year on many fronts, so while I usually focus my weekly editorial on the positive stories emerging from New York’s grape and wine industry, I felt that it was important to also share the growers’ harvest experience this year.

The grape growers are the lifeblood and true champions of our industry. Their stewardship in the vineyards affects the quality consumers experience in their table grapes, PB&J sandwiches, juice, wine, and even brandy. There is no farm-to-table or farm-to-glass without the audacious commitment of farmers all across the state to grow a fruit sensitive to so many environmental factors. While this may be a banner year for winemakers, with reports of stellar quality fruit, low yields mean grape growers are facing hardship ahead.

The long-term success of New York’s industry depends on the economic vitality of grape growers. NYWGF stands behind our grape growers and we will support any effort to pursue a “Disaster Declaration” with the USDA Farm Service Agency. We also worked with Senator Schumer’s office, WineAmerica and NY Farm Bureau to ensure that grapes were included in the USDA Corona Virus Food Assistance Program 2.0 (CFAP) which launched late last month. Applications will be accepted through December 11, 2020, and growers are eligible to receive a direct subsidy of up 10% of their 2019 gross sales. We will continue to work with state and federal agencies to ensure further financial assistance is prioritized for growers.

Of course, this is not the first time grape growers have experienced hardship. The New York grape and wine industry’s resilience springs from the strength of our community. The New York State Wine Grape Growers strengthened their unity in the early 1980s to confront a grape market crisis. Their solidarity caught the attention of the Governor’s Office and State Legislature, resulting in the creation of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation in 1985.

Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda writes, “No matter how hopeless or bleak things appear, the moment always comes when suddenly our spirit revives, and hope is reborn. That is why we must never give up.” I feel refreshed and encouraged when I hear stories from our industry of challenges valiantly overcome. Together we will put the good and bad of the 2020 behind us, and we will unite again in 2021 with fresh resolve and renewed vitality.

Picture of Sam Filler

Sam Filler

Since his appointment to Executive Director in 2017, Sam Filler has led the New York Wine & Grape Foundation in supporting sustainability efforts and has spearheaded marketing initiatives to elevate the image of New York wines.