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US producers and growers to get share of multi-billion-dollar pot

American grape growers and wine producers are set to benefit from a $190bn (€208bn) fund under a new act ratified by President Bush today.

The president approves the new agriculture law during a brief ceremony at the White House this morning. The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 will boost federal crop and dairy subsidies by 67% and shower American farmers with cash over the next 10 years.

The measure has drawn harsh criticism from US trading partners and free trade advocates around the world.

While the bulk of the new funding will go to support commodity crops such as corn and cotton, American grape growers and wineries should benefit as well.

National trade body the American Vintners Association (AVA), said several key features of the legislation will assist the industry.

The ‘value-added’ grant program provides $40m (€44m) a year to help farms (including grape growers) to improve their profitability, the Initiative for Future Agricultural Food Systems provides more than a billion dollars to fund winery-friendly research into farm efficiency, competitiveness and effective marketing.

Other funds include the Tree Assistance Program, which will pay up to $75,000 (€82,000) per farm for replanting vineyards damaged by bad weather, and the Conservation Security Program, which will offer vine growers up to $45,000 (€49,000) a year to improve their environmental practices.

Finally, the Market Access Program dedicates $200m (€220m) a year to help farmers and wineries sell their products in foreign markets.

AVA president David P Sloane acknowledges the bill is good news for American wine. But he warns farmers are going to have a long wait before a cheque comes through the door.

‘Now the tough work begins with the US Department of Agriculture to ensure that the gains we have made are reflected in the rules the department develops to implement this bill,’ he said.

Written by Gary Werner13 May 2002

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