Wine Consuming Texans, I Ask You…Will Texas Cut Off its Nose to Spite its Face?

Grape Harvest at Texas Family Farm

Wine Consuming Texans, I Ask You…Will Texas Cut Off its Nose to Spite its Face?

In the most recent issue of TWGGA Legislative News – January 31, 2011, Dacota Haselwood, Chief Governmental Affairs Officer, led with  the following headline: “State Budget Affects Wine & Grape Industry Development Funds”. After reading the news, I had to just sit back and shake my head as I thought…there’s a definite possibility that Texas will cut off its nose to spite its face.

In Austin, our Texas state government’s Legislative Budget Board released their budget recommendations for the 2012-2013 biennium.  Their recommendation was to ZERO OUT ALL MONEY appropriated to  Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) for wine and grape industry development.  That is $4.3 million per biennium for education, research and marketing that is typically either spent directly by or re-granted out through TDA.  That means the industry will lose the valuable personnel, expertise and programs that have taken a decade to build up in Texas…and this in the face of the detailed and recently released 2010 study that demonstrated that the Texas grape growing and wine industry provides an economic impact to Texas of $1.7 Billion (That’s with a “B”) annually.

Why is this Bad Policy?

Frankly, this pending budget action puts this income stream of $1.7 Billion for Texas in dire jeopardy…all for saving $4.5 million (That’s with a “M”). It just doesn’t make sense. Former Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby calls this mindset from Texas legislators  “a catastrophic cuts-only approach to balancing the state’s budget.” It totally misses the impact of the cuts on the other side of the budget ledger…INCOME.

For more background on the $1.7 Billion economic impact that the Texas wine industry provides to its fellow Texans and its state government, click here.

What Will We Lose?

Such pending budget-cutting action should be of concern to every wine consumer in Texas. Right now Texas is the fourth largest wine consuming state in the USA and 95 percent of Texas wine production is consumed by Texans. Furthermore, every transaction for a bottle of Texas wine represent dollars that are spent right here to the benefit of the local economy rather than being sent to foreign lands like California, France, Italy and Australia.

The bad part of these Draconian budget-cutting measures is that they will not reduce but eliminate among other things, critical state-funded programs on varietal selection related to our specific climate conditions in Texas that have been instrumental in improving both Texas wine quality and the economics of producing quality wines in Texas. These measures will also eliminate Texas wine marketing support provided by TDA that has brought Texas wines national and international recognition in recent years since the inception of these research and marketing programs.

Also at risk here are the jobs of the state employees involved in the wine and grape industry at: the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University, and Texas Agrilife Extension. This group of specialist will be hard, if not impossible, to replace in the future. They came to Texas with a vision and have worked hard to create the next major wine producing state in the United States. Some even consider their work on a larger scale; Texas is about the same size as France and these efforts are working to establish and secure the world’s next major wine region right here in Texas.

Call to Action – Contact Your Elected Officials

It’s imperative that as many industry members, wine consumers and stakeholders (that includes our vendors, city and county officials, and friends) contact their state representatives and senators in an attempt to educate elected state officials and their staff about how important these funds have been and could continue to be to the growth of the Texas wine and grape industry.

To identify and get contact information for your state representative and senator, please click the following link and enter your address:  http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us

It is Easy, By the Numbers

When making the phone calls do the following:

1. Establish that you are a constituent and ask to speak with your elected official

2. Explain how you are involved in the Texas wine and grape industry. Note: Calls from loyal consumers are as important (if not more) than calls from winemakers and grape growers.

3. Relate information on the talking points document

4. Talk about how each agenda item will impact your business or the ongoing viability of the Texas wine industry

5. Offer to e-mail the talking points for their file

6. Send follow-up e-mail to dacota@twgga.org with details of your call – including contact information for the person with whom you spoke

7. For talking points and agenda items when speaking to your elected officials and their staff members, please click here.

8. For a copy of the most recent economic impact numbers please click here.

In order that the legislative and regulatory committee may stay apprised of how extensive our message has been broadcast, following your phone calls, please send an e-mail with follow-up information to Dacota Haselwood at dacota@twgga.org.  Please also direct questions and/or comments to Dacota Haselwood via e-mail or at 210/867-2576.

— — — — —

The bottom-line is that the Texas wine industry is a grassroots movement that is built on Texas’s great agricultural tradition of grit and gumption. Wine grapes provide a new and modern product for family farms across the state. Grapes are a new cash crop that exceeds what can be offered by traditional crops like cotton, corn and soybeans. It is part of the future of the Texas economy.

Hard Times are at hand. However, we need careful considerations by our electrode officials in Austin, with insights of the full economic and business ramifications of their budget-cutting actions.

Don’t let Texas cut off it’s nose to spite its face!

Call your representatives and senators and let them know the importance of the state-funded Texas wine programs both in terms of what it means to family farms, but also in terms of the contribution these programs have to the state’s economy that they could put at risk: $1.7 Billion INCOME for Texas at risk from their pending $4.5 Million in budget cuts.

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Love to taste, talk and tweet about Texas wines and where they are in the global scheme for wines. After all that's the only way they will reach the full potential.

17 Comments

  1. I agree that this is extremely short-sighted. Cutting off such a beneficial avenue of income is just ludicrous. Isn’t it it more economically sound to wipe out the programs that cost more money than they make? I’m sure there are plenty of those in the ledger. Looks like they’ve decided to throw the baby out with the bathwater. This news is upsetting in so many ways.

  2. Thanks for the comments. Please contact your state legislators to provide these important comments. Remember every wine consumer is a potential voter.

    If legislators get enough contacts from voters, they are likely to stand up and take notice.

    Go for it!

  3. Obviously they are not looking at the impact of their recommendations. Cutting $2.15 Million per year in funding for an industry that is bringing in $78.5 Million per year in state and local taxes with 25% growth in taxes collected during the biggest recession in 50 years? I think spending 5% a year to gain 12.5% growth is a good investment, but then governments have rarely understood investing and business… 😉

  4. The excise tax that created this money was created by and for the Texas Wine Industry. All wine sold in the state contributes to this. That is, sales of California, France wines ect. all pay for this via the excise tax.

    Since this tax was created for and by the Tx Industry, will it be droped from the register. Nope! That money will will go somewhere else, not where the voters demanded.

    Where is the truth in advertising???

    Winegrower Plains Tx

  5. Do I hear bait and switch at the State level when it comes to taking tax revenues for specific programs, then cutting the programs so that they can spend the money elsewhere? Is that responsible government?

  6. Why not have the state license out of state wine retailers to ship wine into texas and earmark the revenue from permit fees and sales tax to go to wine and grape industry development via the TDA. That way you have out of state retailers and sales on non Texas wines helping to pay for Texas research and development of their industry.

  7. Tom,

    Thanks for the comments and I understand your line of thinking.

    We had an even sweeter deal….Several years ago the Texas legislator said they would tax every bottle of wine sold in Texas (Texas wine and others) and have the money go to fund Texas wine education, research and viticulture extension. That happened and resulted in $4.5 million per biennium to fund these activities.

    But, now the legislators are trying to cut the funding for the intended agricultural programs to zero and keeping the abovementioned tax revenues in an effort to balance the budget. They are taking away the $4.5 million that made the $1.7 Billion economic impact of the Texas wine industry possible. Short sighted? You bet!

    Go figure. We need consumers to contact their representatives and senators in Austin to say that do not support such behavior. See link in post to Texas legislators.

    Russ

  8. Jeff,

    While some were sunning in Spain, dining on tapas and touring in the lap of luxury, someone had to stay on top of things. 🙂

    Really, many thanks. Welcome back to the “warm” and “friendly” land of Texas.

    Texas is derived from the native word Tejas, right?

    Russ

  9. Many thanks for getting Texas wine consumers involved.

    The budget is a process and we will have to follow it as things progress. I will try to keep you all informed and up to date.

    Russ

  10. most texans i meet are not ignorant just stupid…you can improve ignorance with education…stupidity is a trait of arrogant we are the best people,,,as my roommates in college were texans and oklahomans, i have made it my life’s goal to have those two states secede from the union, as we don’t need them i would rather drink bilge water (run through a filter)than any texas wine….michigan wines are best….there are only two wine distributors in texas, there are 70 in michigan all making multi-millions…get up to speed you southern gentlemen, get your hands dirty in the soil…

    • Dillon,

      Let’s compare Michigan and Texas. Detroit is bulldozing entire subdivisions to the ground because “progressive” “elites” (lol) like you have made profitable businesses flee from your anti-American winter wonderland. Texas on the other hand has businesses flocking to it in massive numbers and has the best economy out of all the states. Come to reality Dillon. Atlas is shrugging and Texas is Galt’s Gulch.

      -Nick (unfortunately still living in CA)

  11. Well…how do I respond to your eloquently worded comments?

    It seems like you may be giving some of the people that you criticize a run for their money on two fronts: arrogance and ignorance.

    In defense, Texas has a long and illustrious agricultural tradition with no shortage of family farmers that have dirty hands. These people take risks every day of every month of every year and are finding the path forward that will bring Texas into the forefront of wine producing regions.

    I still don’t understand the comment on distribution.

  12. Dillon,

    Let’s compare Michigan and Texas. Detroit is bulldozing entire subdivisions to the ground because “progressive” “elites” (lol) like you have made profitable businesses flee from your anti-American winter wonderland. Texas on the other hand has businesses flocking to it in massive numbers and has the best economy out of all the states. Come to reality Dillon. Atlas is shrugging and Texas is Galt’s Gulch.

    -Nick (unfortunately still living in CA)

  13. I’m a grower and a winemaker, and when we spend state pennies on Texas winegrape agribusiness, it rains dollars in small business revenue, mostly from the industries and personnel who support the effort of growing great Texas winegrapes and producing outstanding Texas wines, and the restaurants, winebars, resorts, and end-consumers who would otherwise be sending a chunk of their hard-earned moolah out of state. The clarion call to California is that Texas wine is here to stay (and win awards, head-to-head with Kolly-FO-nee-uh).

    I’ve lived in California (in Napa), and I’ve lived in Michigan. . . I’ve never seen a city gut itself with its own sword, like Detroit has over the past 4 decades, but that’s irrelevent to the positive impact (and direct $$ return) of state-spent research on Texas wine. This ‘ain’t’ any short-sighted, empty stimulus package . . . this is the real thing.

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