Votes from many of Ohio’s farmers helped President Bush win re-election last year. Now many of them feel betrayed because the President’s 2006 budget proposal calls for federal agriculture spending to be cut by nearly ten-percent. The cuts would drastically reduce farm subsidies… and they would curtail agricultural research efforts. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Kevin Niedermier reports that would be an especially big problem for a fairly new crop in the Midwest… grapes for wine:
Votes from many of Ohio’s farmers helped President Bush win re-election last year.
Now many of them feel betrayed because the President’s 2006 budget proposal calls for
federal agriculture spending to be cut by nearly ten-percent. The cuts would drastically
reduce farm subsidies… and they would curtail agricultural research efforts. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Kevin Niedermier reports that would be an especially big
problem for a fairly new crop in the Midwest…grapes for wine:
President Bush wants to cut agriculture spending by more than eight billion dollars as he
looks for ways to reduce the federal deficit. If Congress approves the proposed cuts,
agricultural research at all of the nation’s land grant universities would suffer. For
example, Ohio State University’s Agriculture Research Center in Wooster, Ohio, would
lose six-million dollars. Director Steven Slack says, when you multiply that reduction by
all the research universities across the region… it could mean a lot of cuts.
“If that budget goes through this October, we would see an impact that would reduce
about 200 faculty positions, about 400 staff positions, and about 550 graduate students
that are supported in the north central region, and these are the states from Ohio to the
east and Iowa to the west.”
One of the newer ag industries that has benefited greatly from federally supported
agricultural research is America’s wine producers. For instance, university research into
“bio-dynamic” farming can help vineyards produce wines that don’t rely on synthetic
fertilizers, pesticides or fungicides. Instead, it uses natural methods. It’s like organic
farming…. only it limits the materials used to grow a crop to the farm on which the crop
grows. It’s a closed system.
Under the President’s budget, that kind of research and much more would be cut
at a time when the Midwest wine industry is just getting a good start.
During the last few decades, U.S. wineries have grown from a few hundred, to more than
35, 000 according to the Ohio Wine Producers Association. Most of them are small,
family run operations.
Near the Lake Erie shore just outside Cleveland, Lee Kling-Shern runs the
ten-thousand gallon a year Klingshirn Winery. As wineries in this part of the world go…
his is an old one. His grandfather began growing grapes and making wine on this farm in
1937. Klingshirn says federally funded research made it possible for Midwest vineyards
to grow better varieties of wine grapes…like Viniferas.
“And it’s only been in the last 30 years that technology and research has brought
recommendations to ambitious growers like ourselves to explain how best to handle these
tender varieties and make them work in the field. And thus, today our business is now at
a competitive level with other wine-producing areas of the world as far as the varieties
that we can produce and the quality that we can make. And allows us to be something
worthwhile to come see and do and experience.”
Like Ohio wineries, vintners in states such as New York, Michigan, Illinois, and Missouri
have turned out higher and higher quality wines. Klingshirn is worried that federal cuts
to research spending will make it harder for small vineyards to stay competitive….
“There was finally a research development operation slated to be built at Cornell-New
York which would apply to our style of viticulture here, that as far as I understand has hit
the trash can at this point. So, that’s something we’ve needed for years and years and
years and just as we’re on the cusp of getting it, it’s pulled away.”
Klingshirn and other vintners are also upset that the Bush budget proposes a fifty dollar
fee be paid by winemakers anytime they change the label on a bottle. The money would
be used to pay inspectors who make sure the new labels meet federal standards for health
warnings and other required information.
The vineyard owners and winemakers say the new fees and research cuts are bad timing
for the wine industry in the Midwest, just as many of the vintners were beginning to win
gold medals nationally and internationally.
They’re afraid their progress will be tarnished by the Bush Administration’s proposed
For the GLRC, I’m Kevin Niedermier.