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PD/GWSS Board Raises Assessment Rate to $1.25 for 2016 Harvest

by Ted Rieger
June 22, 2016

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Pierce’s Disease (PD)/Glassy-winged Sharpshooter (GWSS) Board set the wine and grape industry assessment rate for the 2016 harvest at $1.25 per $1,000 of crop value at its June 21 meeting in Sacramento, an increase of $0.50 from the $0.75 per $1,000 of crop value rate assessed for the past three years. The Board assessments are used primarily to fund research projects and outreach efforts related to PD and GWSS, and other designated pests and diseases of winegrapes.

The Board voted to increase the assessment at the recommendation of CDFA staff. Based on the Board’s current budget projections and future funding obligations for multi-year research projects and contracts, CDFA staff calculated that the Board’s budget could be in a deficit (when factoring in future obligations) by the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year without an increase in assessment revenue.

The Board’s budget had an annual carryover surplus of revenue for a number of years, one reason the assessment rate was kept lower in recent years in order to reduce the surplus. The 2016 assessment of $1.25 will be the first time the assessment has exceeded $1.00 since 2007, when it was $1.50. Assessment revenue collected in recent years has decreased, from about $2.8 million for the 2013 harvest, to $2.6 million for the 2014 harvest, and to less than $2.2 million for the 2015 harvest. Revenue for the 2015 harvest was lower than the Board originally projected due to lower crop yields and less overall crop value.

Board Believes Rate Increase Justified
Since 2010, the Board has had the ability to use assessment funds for research and outreach on other serious pests and diseases of winegrapes, as long as such funding does not interfere with PD/GWSS control and research efforts. The Board has designated the European grapevine moth, grapevine red blotch-associated virus, (GRBaV), grapevine leafroll disease, grapevine fanleaf virus, mealybug pests of winegrapes, and the brown marmorated stink bug as additional pests of concern and has funded projects for these new pests.

On June 21, the Board also approved its annual budget with expenditures of $8.15 million for fiscal year 2016-17 that includes funding for new projects, such as a grower outreach program on grapevine viruses and certified grapevine plant materials, and a planned grapevine virus summit meeting at UC Davis to plan a clearer path for addressing and solving red blotch and leafroll virus issues.

During discussions prior to the assessment vote, Board member Ben Drake, a winegrape grower with Drake Enterprises in Temecula, said: “I think it’s justified to bump up the rate. We’ve added new pests for research, and outreach and other programs in recent years that were not covered under our original assessment and program obligations, and this is what the industry wanted. I thought we should have raised the rate last year.”

PD Board chair Nat DiBuduo, of Allied Grape Growers based in Fresno, said, “I think adding $0.50 is justifiable. When we go to the federal government and the legislature to request funding, it helps to show that we’re making good faith efforts from industry contributions to support our program.”

PD Funding Bill Pending in Senate
At this week’s meeting, the Board received an update on pending legislation, AB 2714 authored by Assembly Member Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) that would appropriate $5 million from the state General Fund to the CDFA Pierce’s Disease Management Account for fiscal year 2016-17.

Historically, California’s PD Control Program has been funded by a combination of federal, state and industry sources. 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 funding in 2011-12 due to the economic downturn and the state budget deficit. The PD Program has continued to operate on federal and industry funds. Cooper and industry groups cited the current outbreak and spread of PD in the North Coast, and high populations of GWSS in Kern County, as reasons for the state to contribute funds for statewide control efforts. The bill is sponsored by the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) and Family Winemakers of California.

The billed passed from the Assembly with a unanimous vote May 31 and is now pending in the Senate. CAWG’s director of governmental relations Tyler Blackney, who briefed the Board, believes the bill has a good chance of passing from the Senate and reaching the governor’s desk, but receiving the governor’s signature is more uncertain.

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