Newhouse Backing Bill To Protect Wine Grapes Over Wildfire Smoke
Several Washington congress members are backing a bill to let wine grape growers get insurance for wildfire smoke.
The measure would change the Federal Crop Insurance Act to cover financial losses from grapes being exposed to wildfire smoke.
Fourth District Congressman Dan Newhouse says the legislation is needed to keep up with the increasing impact of wildfires.
"The impact of that smoke on the quality of the grapes, that is something that we really found ourselves unprepared for," said Newhouse. "How to deal with our crop insurance programs. And now stepping up in our research efforts to understand what's going on and how we can combat the impact of smoke on the grapes."
Newhouse is being joined in supporting the bill by Senator Patty Murray of Washington and two lawmakers from California - Rep. Mike Thompson and Sen. Alex Padilla.
Newhouse is only Republican in the group of three other Democrats.
Smoke exposure to wine grapes before they ripen does not make the wine unsafe to drink but can alter its taste and quality.
The result can make the wine undesirable to consume and lower the value of the wine grapes.
An Oregon State University study from 2019 found that smoke-affected wines are described with words such as ‘smoky,’ ‘ashtray,’ and ‘burnt rubber.’
The smoke affected grapes can also leave a drying sensation in the mouth.
In addition, it can cover up the characteristics that normally come with a given wine.
Washington ranks second behind California for wine production, with more than 800 wineries and 250 wine and grape growers on 14,000 acres of vineyards.
Currently, wine grape crop insurance only covers actual physical damage to the grape vines.
Lab tests of wine grapes are required to demonstrate that losses were the result of wildfire rather than market-related conditions.
Newhouse says lawmakers are working with the industry to move the legislation forward.
"We're finding the wine grape industry has been a very active partner in this, in trying to figure out what we can do to not only prevent it but deal with it once it happens."