Texas Department of Ag Identifies Funding to Extend Viticulture Advisor Program

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Texas Department of Agriculture Identified Funding to Extend Viticulture Advisor Program

By Dacota Haselwood, Chief Governmental Affairs Officer (from TWGGA Legislative News July 11, 2011)

The Association (Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association – TWGGA) has just been notified formally that Commissioner Todd Staples has decided to address what many in the TWGGA leadership have indicated is the industry’s top priority.  Commissioner Staples has decided to invest $200,000 to continue the viticulture education program administered by Texas AgriLife Extension.  Below is an excerpt from a letter under deputy commissioner, Drew DeBerry’s signature, that explains the detail of this wonderful news….

As you are aware, the 2012-2013 biennium will look significantly different for the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).  The Legislature has required TDA to reduce its budget by more than 40% Starting September 1, 2010, and many programs previously funded, such as the Enology and Viticulture Education And Research (EVER) Grant Program, will be suspended.  We know this program has been vital to the wine and grape industry and Commissioner Staples is committed to seeing this industry continue to grow and thrive for the state’s economy.

You might wonder how we have funding for [the viticulture education program] when the Legislature eliminated all the wine marketing and research funding for the upcoming biennium.  In anticipation of this state budget situation, the Legislative Budget Board directed all state agencies to make multiple cuts during the CURRENT 2010-2011 biennium.  As part of this, TDA implemented a hiring freeze, along with many other expenditure reductions.  These measures have produced slightly more savings than anticipated and we therefore are able to offer this grant on a one-time basis from current biennium savings to continue the viticultural education program.

I have instructed TDA grants staff to work with Texas AgriLife Extension and Dr Ed Hellman to submit a work plan for continuing the viticulture advisor project title, “Developing and Maintaining Viticulture Education Programs”.  Again, TDA will be able to provide them with $200,000 of fiscal year 2011 funds to extend the current project until June 2013.  This is more than 50% of the funded amount for the 2010-2011 biennium, and TDA hopes these funds will help bridge the gap and continue to benefit the wine grape growers in Texas.

Please direct your questions/comments to Gabe Parker or Cord Switzer, co-chairs of the TWGGA Legislative and Regulatory Committee using the contact information below.

Gabe Parker, Homestead Winery, (903) 227-1921, gnparker@cableone.net

Cord Switzer, Fredericksburg Winery, (830) 990-8747, cord@fbgwinery.com

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  1. The funding starts at the beginning of the new fiscal year and runs for 15 months. It is meant to be a “bridge” that will sustain the industry with viticultural support until better times return or an alternative fund arrangement can be developed. It will keep in place all of the extension viticulturalists presently stationed around the state. There also appears to be a plan underway to help secure our extension and teaching enologists as well.

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