MONDAY, MAY 9, 2022. BY JASON SALING, CHAIR PRO TEMPORE, SONOMA CO PCD.
Over the course of more than 18 months, a group of viticulturists and vineyard owners (listed below) have been working together to research both the benefits of, and the process for establishing a Winegrape Pest and Disease Control District in Sonoma County. We’ve engaged in research and discussed our effort with elected and appointed Sonoma County Officials, University of California Cooperative Extension & UC-ANR, Napa County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, Napa County Winegrape Pest and Disease Control District Board of Directors, State Legislators, and other Pest Control Districts throughout California.
Jason Saling, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Chair pro Tempore
Nellie Praetzel, Enterprise Vineyards, Secretary pro Tempore
Tony Crabb, Puma Springs Vineyard
Dana Grande, Jordan Vineyard & Winery
Dr. Cindy Kron, UCCE IPM Advisor North Coast
Eric Pooler, Silverado from Nuveen Natural Company
Madeleine Rowan-Davis, Atlas Vineyard Management
Katey Taylor, Constellation Brands, Napa Co Winegrape PDCD Board Chair
Andy Wilson, Grow West
The California Winegrape Pest and Disease Control District Law enables owners of winegrape acreage within Sonoma County to petition the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to acknowledge and establish a Winegrape Pest and Disease Control District. The Sonoma County Winegrape Pest & Disease Control District Coalition is organizing a petition effort for the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. Sonoma winegrowers recently received a letter and a petition of support plus frequently asked questions about the functionality of the Special District. They are being asked to read through the benefits of such a district, visit the new Sonoma County Winegrape Pest & Disease Control District Coalition website, review what Napa’s WGPDCD has been working on for the last 20 years, and give us your support in petitioning the Board of Supervisors to allow us to form one of our own in Sonoma County, which would allow us to then collaborate in ongoing pest control efforts, not only with each other, but with neighboring districts to form area wide protection from harmful pests.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is a Winegrape Pest & Disease Control District?
A Pest & Disease Control District (PCD) is a grower funded, grower run Board serving the needs and priorities of the agricultural commodity that funds it.
How is a PCD funded?
As defined in the California Food and Ag Code, Section 6200-6290, funding is generated by a minor per planted winegrape acre assessment. The assessment is collected annually by the County Assessor as part of property taxes, and 100% of those funds are placed into a trust account specific for Pest & Disease Control District. The assessment is capped by State law at $5.00 per planted acre of winegrapes.
Who forms the PCD Board? How do Growers/Owners know where the assessment dollars are spent?
Wine grape landowners or their duly authorized representatives serve on the PCD Board. Meetings of the Board must comply with the Brown Act. Meetings are open to the public and agendas are posted ahead of the meeting. Agenda and non-agenda items can be addressed by growers at each meeting. Budgets are formed annually and formally presented at Board meetings. Directors, appointed by the Board of Supervisors serve a three-year term. The district is re-authorized by the BOS for 5-year terms.
Why do we need a PCD now, can’t we wait until we discover a new pest threat in our vineyards?
No. A PCD serves to manage both established pests, and works to avoid the establishment of new pest threats. A PCD is funded for a cohesive and coordinated system for detection and eradication. Without a PCD, individual expenses could be very high, and isolated eradication efforts may not banish the pest from our industry. Long-term effects could include increased costs for insecticides, increased labor costs for monitoring, establishment of new pest control compliance agreements, organic growers losing certification due to use of non-certifiable insecticides, fruit quality issues, and tarping/monitoring grape loads at harvest. A Sonoma County PCD will serve to promote and protect the long-term sustainability of our industry by ensuring that our integrated pest management activity remains resilient, protecting both our agricultural interests and our natural resources.
How does a Sonoma County Wine Grape PCD add value to my vineyard?
Over the last 20 years, Sonoma County winegrape growers have seen the introduction and establishment of Vine Mealybug (VMB.) Additionally, Light-Brown Apple Moth (LBAM), Virginia Creeper Leafhopper, Glassy-winged Sharpshooter, and European Grapevine Moth (EGVM) have all threatened the integrity of winegrape production in the County. A PCD will ensure that early activities for eradication of an invasive pest will be coordinated and can use funds to ensure that those costs don’t fall squarely on individual landowners.
The PCD will:
- Establish a pool of funding dedicated solely for early detection, monitoring, and mitigation of winegrape pests and diseases
- Create an open forum and dedicated grower board to respond to grower/owner input to determine areas of greatest need, focusing on localized research and education/outreach
- Coordinate with UCCE / UC ANR, Sonoma County Ag Commissioner to leverage funding and labor resources
- Coordinate with neighboring regions, i.e. Napa, Mendocino, Lake, Marin and Solano Counties to extend a buffer zone around Sonoma County’s high value winegrowing region
- Communicate, coordinate, and cooperate in establishing local research priorities to the UCCE/UCANR
- Establish a Board with a County level voice for requesting co-funding as required from Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, and State and Federal Grant opportunities.
Examples of work funded by the Napa County Pest Control District:
- Vine Mealybug – mapping identifying hotspots and published a GIS web map; public, grower, and field worker training and education; xoordinated mating disruption to decrease insect population; funded and coordinated Anagyrus wasp release to augment biological control
- Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter (GWSS) – supplementing funding to ensure that 100% of nursery shipments are inspected; increasing trapping and seasonal monitoring now that GWSS is established in Solano
County; pest identification workshops for all manner of pests, including new and exotic threats to the industry
But our Agricultural Commissioner already does plant inspections. Why does Sonoma County need a PCD?
The Sonoma County Department of Agriculture administers exclusion programs to keep invasive and injurious pests out of Sonoma County. In 2020, staff inspected 1069 nursery stock shipments for GWSS. Additionally, they deployed trap programs for other invasive insects and those 6531 traps were serviced 52,721 times. As robust as our AC’s programs are, their priorities are directed at specific pest species and ratings as defined by CDFA. As State and County funding for specific pest management/exclusion programs diminishes over time, PCD’s can step in to further fund prevention and monitoring for a winegrape specific pest, disease, or research not addressed by State or County priority.
Sonoma winegrowers – please return your completed petition prior to 5/15/2022 (although petitions will be accepted until quota is met). Don’t hesitate to reach out to Jason Saling if you have additional questions or for more information. Thank you for your support. It is through this effort that winegrowers of Sonoma County can secure and protect our agricultural interests now and into the future. Check out the Sonoma County PCD website to access a PDF of the petition to digitally sign and return via email.
The Lodi Winegrape Commission looks forward to collaborating with and learning alongside the future Sonoma Winegrape Pest and Disease Control District!
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