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Assembly Bill Would Appropriate $5 Million for Calif. Pierce's Disease Program

PD Board Recommends Funding 15 New Research Projects
by Ted Rieger
April 19, 2016

At a meeting in Sacramento April 18, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Pierce’s Disease (PD)/Glassy-winged Sharpshooter (GWSS) Board and the PD Advisory Task Force received an update on pending legislation, AB 2714, that would provide a one-time appropriation of $5 million from the state General Fund to the CDFA Pierce’s Disease Management Account.

At the same meeting, the PD Board reviewed research project proposals for the 2016-2017 fiscal year and recommended spending $3.3 million for 15 new projects, in addition to $1.7 million to be spent for the same fiscal year to continue multi-year research projects already in progress.

Legislation Seeks to Reinvest in CDFA Pest Control Efforts

AB 2714 is authored by Assembly Member Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), whose district includes parts of the Lodi and Clarksburg grape growing regions. The bill is sponsored by the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) and is supported by Family Winemakers of California. Historically, the PD Control Program has been funded by a combination of federal, state and industry sources, and has been considered a model for collaboration among these entities to address agricultural pest and disease issues. This model has subsequently been used by other ag commodity groups.

For the 12-year period, from 1999 to 2011, the state contributed an average of $5.6 million annually from the General Fund to the PD Control Program, but discontinued this funding in 2011-12 due to the economic downturn. The PD Program has continued to operate on federal and industry funds, including the annual industry assessment that funds the PD/GWSS Board. However, the Board assessment funds are primarily targeted for research, education and outreach efforts rather than ongoing pest monitoring and eradication efforts.

Given the recent increased outbreaks and spread of PD in North Coast vineyards, rising populations of GWSS in Kern County that exceeded 200,000 trapped in 2015, and improvements in the state budget and economic situation, CAWG and Assembly Member Cooper believe it is time to recommit state funding and support to the PD Program. In addition, CDFA resources are increasingly being strained to address threats to California agriculture from additional invasive pests. Notably, the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), a vector of the bacteria that causes huanglongbing disease, or citrus greening, is a major threat to California’s citrus industry, and has become a significant focus of CDFA.

Providing additional perspective at the April 18 meeting, CAWG president John Aguirre noted that the citrus industry has sponsored its own similar bill to appropriate state funding for ACP. “This illustrates that it’s time for the state to reinvest in pest and disease control programs, and perhaps it’s time to look at bringing more resources to state ag programs in general,” Aguirre said.

CAWG’s director of governmental relations Tyler Blackney said in addition to using the legislation track for funding, the state budget process is another possible track to obtain additional funding for CDFA. He suggested the possibility of combining efforts with other ag industry groups to influence state budget decisions. Blackney and Aguirre said AB 2714 has initially received good support, passing out of the Assembly Agriculture Committee. It is currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

PD Board Supports PD and Red Blotch Research Projects

The PD Board voted in favor of the research screening committee’s recommendations to fund 15 of 25 research proposals received for the 2016-17 fiscal year (beginning July 1, 2016) for a total of $3.3 million. Although the Board has designated new pests and diseases in recent years to be eligible for research funding, research proposals continue to be predominantly PD-related. Ten of this year’s funded projects address PD issues, and include field evaluations of PD-resistant vine materials developed using transgenic and other promising technologies, and a new study to map PD and vector populations in the southern San Joaquin Valley to better assess management strategies. Two new projects address grapevine red blotch-associated virus--to investigate its biology and spread, and the timing of its transmission in the field. One new project will study resistance to grapevine fanleaf virus in rootstocks.

A total of $1.7 million will fund 11 previously approved, ongoing multi-year research projects during the 2016-17 fiscal year. These include the traditional breeding of PD resistant winegrapes by Dr. Andy Walker at UC Davis, and a project to evaluate potential shifts in PD epidemiology in North Coast vineyards. One project will continue to evaluate potential vectors of red blotch, and another project is looking at the risk and impacts in western vineyards of the brown marmorated stink bug. New and continuing research projects are evaluating GWSS insecticide resistance, and improving winter and spring controls for the vine mealybug.

PD Board member and research screening committee chair Steve McIntyre with Monterey Pacific Vineyards said the committee is planning to better coordinate research proposal solicitations and selections with the American Vineyard Foundation (AVF) to prevent overlapping functions and the funding of similar research projects. As the PD Board has added more pests and diseases under its realm of influence, it could assume a larger share of this research area, and possibly allow the AVF to focus funding on other areas of viticultural research and practices.

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