The United States government has pledged US$14m to fight the potentially fatal vine malady Pierce's Disease.

The 2002 agriculture appropriations bill which earmarks the funds has been recently signed by President Bush. So far nearly US$40m has been committed by federal government and grape industry sources to fight the disease. In June last year the Clinton administration put some US$22m aside.

Pierce’s Disease is the most virulent vine-wasting disease threatening California. It has already devastated vineyards in the south of the state, and the insect which spreads the disease, the glassy-winged sharpshooter, has been spotted further north near San Francisco. The premium vineyards of Napa Valley and Sonoma have not yet been affected.

Bill Nelson, vice president for government affairs for the American Vintners Association, is delighted by the news. ‘This is the best year we’ve ever had,’ Nelson said. ‘The federal government is saying it believes that viticulture is extremely important to this country.’

It is understood some US$8.5m will go towards containing and controlling the disease, while the rest of the funds will be put towards research.

Written by Adam Lechmere4 December 2001