By Cary M. Greene
This past weekend, the New York Times published an article Congress’s Man of the Vines, Including His Own on one our industries biggest advocates, Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA). The portrait of Congressman Thompson painted by the Times was wholly unfair. As a representative of wineries in nearly every state, WineAmerica knows as well as anyone that Congressman Thompson’s efforts on behalf of American wine and grape growers are simply an acknowledgement of the potential of a dynamic and growing rural industry.
The reality is that wineries are at the core of a rural economic renaissance that has continued unabated for more than three decades. The numbers speak for themselves. In 1975, there were fewer than 600 wineries. Today, there are more than 7,500 and number continues to rise even in face of a challenging economy.
American winemaking is a farm-based business that is dynamic, profitable and productive. It has allowed thousands of family farms throughout the United States to hire new employees, create billions of dollars in direct and indirect economic benefit to their local communities, and introduce millions of Americans to the beautiful landscapes and agricultural potential of their own backyards. These thousands of mom and pop businesses are a vital source of rural jobs and economic activity and are at the heart of agritourism and the “buy local” movement.
It only makes sense to try to enable policies that continue to allow a young and dynamic industry to reach its potential. Congressman Thompson’s support should be applauded, not questioned.