Collaboration is Key

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Collaboration is Key to Ensure Long Term Ag Preservation

By Steve Dutton, President

Published August 1, 2017

Steve Dutton and Mike Thompson
Congressman Mike Thompson and Steve Dutton. Photos by George Rose.
At the Capitol
Sonoma County contingency in front of the U.S. capitol.
Doug McIlroy, Rodney Strong Vineyards; Brad Petersen, Silver Oak Winery; Congressman Jared Huffman; Karissa Kruse, Sonoma County Winegrowers President; and Steve Dutton, Sonoma County Farm Bureau President in Washington D.C.

In June, I was honored to be invited by the Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW) to educate sommeliers and consumers on Sonoma County’s sustainability initiative in Washington D.C. and New York City.

With me were my fellow grape growers Brad Petersen from Silver Oak Winery and Doug McIlroy from Rodney Strong Vineyards. Karissa Kruse, President of the SCW, led seminars in D.C and NYC based on Sonoma County’s cutting edge initiative to have all our vineyards certified 100% sustainable by 2019.

The most important part of the trip was in Washington D.C. where SCW had the privilege of hosting a reception for the Congressional Wine Caucus and the Ag Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill. In partnership with Congressman Thompson and Congressman Huffman, this was the first time Sonoma County wine and agriculture representatives met directly with Members of Congress and their staff to educate on the importance of preserving agriculture and our vibrant wine business.

The Congressional Wine Caucus was founded in 1999 by Congressmen and winegrape growers Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) and George Radanovich (R-Fresno) to protect the interests of the vibrant wine industry from grape to glass. Today, the Caucus brings together more than 145 Members of Congress representing all 50 states, and is chaired by Congressman Thompson and Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Lakeside).

Members of the Congressional Wine Caucus are joined not only by their deep appreciation of wine, but also by their understanding of the industry’s significant economic impact. The wine industry contributes an estimated $162 billion to the U.S. economy annually and provides the equivalent of 1.1 million full-time jobs. Wine exports in particular have experienced significant growth, with a record $1.14 billion in winery revenues in 2010.

Karissa, Doug, Brad and I, along with some fellow Sonoma County vintners spent two hours networking with more than 30 members of Congress, and over 70 aides and staff members. According to the Wine Institute, this Sonoma County reception was the best attended they had seen by Members of Congress and helped solidify an open dialogue and support of our local representatives, Thompson and Huffman.

It is easy for us to get busy and focus on the daily task of farming, but it is critical for us to continue to leverage every opportunity to educate our leaders and policy makers in D.C. on the value of agriculture.

Fostering relationships with key stakeholders continues to be a priority for Sonoma County Farm Bureau in collaboration with Sonoma County Winegrowers. Working together, we can ensure a thriving ag community for Sonoma County.

I valued the chance to represent Sonoma County agriculture in our country’s capital and share the important story of multi-generational farming along with areas where we need support. It was crucial to see firsthand how critical it is for us to all work together to preserve our livelihood and this amazing place we get to call home.

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the author and Sonoma County Farm Bureau when reprinting this item.