At a recent Tri County Grape Growers meeting, David Marrison – Ohio State University Extension Educator for Ashtabula County – presented attendees information on the 2014 Farm Bill. Specifically, he focused on the Tree Assistance Program (TAP), which “provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes, and vines damaged by natural disasters occurring on or after October 1, 2011.” This program is now a permanent disaster relief program in the Farm Bill, as of 2014, and I’d guess – if they weren’t already – grape and fruit growers across the US are pretty happy that the 2014 Farm Bill finally passed. Sign up for the USDA disaster assistance program began on April 15, 2014.
The TAP – Tree Assistance Program – is aimed to help tree fruit and grape growers negatively affected by natural disasters, such as hail, wind, the polar vortex, etc., and the damage date can go back as far as October 1, 2011. The caveat, of course, is that there needs to be documented evidence that a disastrous event took place and that there was significant damage, so the Ohio State University Grape Extension Team sent a survey to Ohio grape growers to assess and report the extent of the damage. The results are rather grim, which is why the TAP is critical for Ohio growers and why it’s critical for county FSA offices to know and understand the extent of the damages.
So, how much damage is there?
(A lot) x (several sub-zero events) = Tremendous damage
The Ohio State University grape extension team’s survey indicates that the losses of the vinifera varieties (Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.) are in the 90%-100% range, based on primary bud mortality assessments. Hybrids (Traminette, Chambourcin, Chardonel, Vidal, etc.) look marginally better with a range of 30% to 75% estimated losses for this year. Losses in the American hybrids (Concord, Niagara, Catawba, etc.) are far less – 23%-46%. Growers have been finding trunk damage as well, which is far more problematic than dead primary buds.
How does this feed into the economic model? Marrison estimates that the 2014 estimated loss for Northeast Ohio producers WHO REPORTED DAMAGE to be around $5.8 million. Just in Northeast Ohio and ONLY for those who completed the survey. The economic impact surely is far larger, although without more people reporting, the exact number is unclear.
The Ohio grape industry will struggle to recover from this for several years, and some businesses may not even survive it. For those folks, I hope they have an exit strategy in their business plans. For the rest, it’s going to take support from the state and federal governments to keep this multi-million dollar industry rolling.
More articles on the damage in Ohio’s industry: