An Open Letter to Texas Legislators: Don’t Leave Texas Wine Behind. Now is the Hour!

Dear Chairman Mike Hamilton, Vice Chairman Chente, Quintanilla, Rep. Joe Driver, Rep. Charlie Geren, Rep. Roland Gutierrez, Rep. Patricia Harless, Rep. John Keumpel, Rep. Jose Menendez, Rep. Senfronia Thompson AND the Texas wine consumers across the state:

As you know from my previous blog posts, funding for Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) programs that support important and much needed programs for the Texas wine industry is in serious danger. While Texas is in this situation, other state see the potential for jobs and economic growth through support of these sector of the economy (For example, see what’s going on in Virginia: http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=4594).

The way I see the problem, the legislators in Austin have only been looking at one side of the state’s bookkeeping  ledger – the expense side where they see  an outgo of $4.3 million per biennium ($2.15 million per year). They want to zero out the TDA programs so that these funds can be applied to help balance the state’s multi-billion dollar deficit.

Yeah, right! Maybe they don’t know they’re M’s from their B’s.

I believe that this may be the case because on the other side of the bookkeeping ledger there is income from the texas wine industry; income manifested across rural Texas to the tune of $1.7 Billion per biennium overall, including about $80 million in direct tax revenues.

If the TDA programs are eliminated, we run a serious risk of not saving $4.3 million, but losing both tax revenues and an overall $1.7 Billion economic impact to the state’s rural economy that will far outweigh the cost savings derived from elimination of the TDA programs. These are funds that go to create jobs across the state and  pay for important state programs for the needy and underprivileged.

CALL TO ACTION

In an attempt to salvage some of that funding, the industry hs worked with Rep. Doug Miller of New Braunfels (also covering Gillespie ounty) to draft and file a bill similar to the 2005 funding bill – the current bll is HB 3289.  The most recent draft of that bill will be offered as a committee substitute when the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee hears testimony on this bill on tomorrow, Tuesday, April 19, 2010.

The anticipated substitute funds are NOT an entitlement that will line the pockets of wineries. It will support critical education, research and marketing, in the following areas:

Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute – this effort develops the economic impact numbers that the industry has to the state of Texas and its citizens particularly in rural farms and communities (currently at $1.7 Billion per biennium).

Viticulture Advisors – These regional advisors assist in evaluation of vineyard problems and make recommendations to many family farmer who are not growing Texas grapes. This has helped to increase production and quality of grapes grown in the state of Texas.

Enology Outreach – This covers our state enology (winemaking) assistance: Texas is a different kind of wine growing region with new varieties of grapes being utilized and many first time winemakers. This effort has developed and improve winemaking techniques specific for Texas and helps to solve problems and many smaller family wineries around the state.

TDA Marketing Efforts – It supports the Texas wine industry through the Texas Wine Marketing Assistance Program.

Grayson County College Outreach – Provides tutorial and educational support with short courses held around the state.

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OK guys and girls in the Texas State Legislature: it’s time to step up and be counted; not a time to leave Texas wine(and the family farms and rural grape growers) behind.

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Texas wine consuming public: It’s imperative thatyou contact your state representatives and senators and those to which this open letter is addressed (see above) in an attempt to educate them 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

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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.