Grape growers pounce on improvement program funding

FCC - Susan Mann
September 05, 2017
By FCC - Susan Mann
September 5, 2017, Ontario - The popularity of a seven-year-old program designed to give wine grape growers funding for production improvements shows no signs of abating.

When the first-come, first-served application process opened in June for the marketing and vineyard improvement program, the program’s administrator, Agricorp, received enough applications for the available funding in just one day.

There is $2 million worth of funding for the 2017-2018 program year, and another $2 million for the 2018-2019 program, says Agricorp spokesperson Stephanie Charest. The intake of the 152 applications was for both years, as requested by industry.

Government funding for production improvements

The Grape Growers of Ontario website says the program provides funds to growers to help with the costs of improving their production of wine grapes. Successful applicants can get payments for up to 35 per cent of their project.

Chair Matthias Oppenlaender says with the funding taken up so quickly, it clearly shows there’s a need for more money in the program.

He’s used the program in the past for his Niagara-on-the-Lake vineyard for wind machines and improved harvesting technology.

There are 17,000 acres of grapes vines in south, southwestern and eastern Ontario. In 2016, growers harvested about 70,000 tonnes of wine grapes valued at $95.3 million.

Split funding

The 2017-2018 program will fund 73 to proceed with their proposed projects. Growers then submit claims once they have completed the work.

The remaining applicants are placed in sequence for the 2018-2019 program. Agricorp will know how many growers will get funding in that program year once it gives them the go-ahead in the spring of 2018 to proceed with their project.

Program popularity

Grape Growers of Ontario officials aren’t surprised by the intense grower demand.

CEO Debbie Zimmerman says farmers use the money for a variety of items, such as weather mitigation measures and machines to improve vineyard production and sustainability.

“It’s an important program,” Zimmerman says. It helps growers mechanize their vineyards and invest in innovation. You get to try some new strategies to help grow grapes in a cold climate.”

Bottom Line

Wine grape growers continue to invest in improvements to their production.

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