Sustainable grape growing in a recession

Even though the economic outlook is clouded, there are plenty of reasons for growers to continue their pursuit of sustainable grape growing practices, according to Cliff Ohmart, sustainable winegrowing director, Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission. Ohmart oversees “Lodi Rules” for the organization.

“For example, growers selling to Michael-David Vineyards get a $50 per ton bonus for Lodi Rules certified grapes,” he says. “Pan Pacific Underwriters is giving growers in the Lodi Rules program a 10 percent reduction on their insurance premiums, and for growers new to the program, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is paying growers a per acre cost share for the IPM practices they are doing under the Lodi Rules through the NRCS EQIP program.”

In terms of planning and record keeping it costs more to comply with Lodi Rules. However, Ohmart believes in the value of the sustainable investment.

“My experience is, that over time, the increase in record keeping and planning required by the grower points out areas of inefficiency in their farming which can be corrected to save them money,” he says. “Moreover, the Lodi Rules program is focused on how to best grow quality wine grapes to help keep them economically competitive.”

The ultimate question is whether or not sustainability makes sense in these tough economic times.

“I would say ‘yes’ because of inefficiencies being identified,” Ohmart says. “Also, if a grower needs to be able to differentiate their grapes from others to make them more attractive for sale, this is a great way to do it.”

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