Policy Perspectives

National Grape Improvement Center: The Future is Here

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer visited Geneva, NY to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new, world-class facility: USDA-ARS National Grape Improvement Center (NGIC).

Senator Schumer was able to secure $68 million to construct the new scientific facility for future high-impact, cooperative research between the Agricultural Research Service, the chief in-house agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Cornell University scientists. Research will focus primarily on grapevine genetic improvement and managing genetic resources of cold-hardy grapevines, apples, tart cherries, hemp, and select vegetables.

The finished building will be larger than a football field, and the groundbreaking was a dream come true for lots of people in attendance. WineAmerica actually initiated this project about 20 years ago under the leadership of Bill Nelson, joined in support by Winegrape Growers of America, the National Grape Research Alliance, and the unstoppable John Martini of Anthony Road Winery, a member of all three organizations who showed up, stood up, and spoke up for years about the new facility.

 Symbolically, Senator Shumer held up a bottle of Fox Run Traminette as an example of how this type of research can benefit the American wine industry; Traminette is a highly successful grape variety developed by Cornell scientists, and Fox Run’s co-owner Scott Osborn is the current WineAmerica Board Chair who also attended the groundbreaking with me and John.

Cornell is already widely considered one of the world’s top institutions for viticulture and enology research and extension, and this new facility will amplify that reputation by making it the premier source of grape genetics research worldwide. This is particularly important in an era where climate change is affecting vineyards around the globe.

Senate Majority Leader Schumer is now in his fifth term, more than any of his predecessors, and has always been a passionate champion for the grape and wine industry. We thank him, his staff, and all those involved throughout two decades, for getting this job done.

(Senator Chuck Schumer (center), flanked by officials from USDA-ARS and Cornell, breaks ground for the new world-class facility.)

(Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer used Fox Run Traminette as a perfect example of how grape research can benefit the wine industry. Coincidentally, WineAmerica Board Chair Scott Osborn is Fox Run’s co-owner.)

(Groundbreaking at the USDA-ARS National Grape Improvement Center, June 26. L to R: Gan-Yuan Zhong, USDA-ARS; Stephen Taylor, Bully Hill Vineyards; Jim Trezise, WineAmerica; Julie Suarez, Cornell University,; Scott Osborn, Fox Run Vineyards and WineAmerica, Dr. Tom Burr, Cornell (ret.), Sam Filler (New York Wine & Grape Foundation; Max Rohn, Wolffer Estate Vineyards, NYWGF, WA)