California farmers removing grape vines

January 7, 2014

grapesmmmCalifornia farmers are ripping up grape vines and switching to higher yielding crops to cope with an ongoing drought, according to a report by San Rafael wine broker Ciatti Co. [Mercury News]

The report estimates that California vintners will remove 15,000 to 20,000 acres of vines and replace them with crops such as almonds and other tree fruits.

“The coming year in California will be characterized by drought and sustainability,” the report states. “The state is seeing a mass pullout of all low-bearing crops. Farmers have been forced to shift from crop diversification to salvaging crops that will provide them the most long-term sustainability.”

California has a total of 546,000 acres of grape vines. The state produces about 88 percent of U.S. wine at an estimated retail value of $22 billion.

Farmers are currently suffering the third straight year of drought in California, with no significant rainfall one-third of the way into rain season.

 


53 Comments

  1. suzyque says:

    I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled that the grapes have got to go. The Paso Robles that we have all known and loved needs to get back to normal, with more sustainable crops and cattle ranching – whatever it takes. Now that the water shortage is being addressed, we can all move forward with viable solutions together.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

    • racket says:

      Are you involved in agriculture?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

    • DennySLO says:

      Unfortunately the removal of vineyards is NOT happening in the Paso Robles area, it’s proposed by companies located within the Central Valley. This is not to say that Paso Robles vintners shouldn’t follow suit to a healthy degree.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  2. mrcyberdoc says:

    Like any business they have tax write-offs. They have probably amortized their depriciation on older grape fields, so now it’s time to move on to another crop so they can start the depreciation all over again. Many vineyards are used to avoid taxes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

    • Mr. Holly says:

      Don’t forget there is always agriculture welfare. Where else do people get paid for not planting a crop? Unbelievable when there are so many people going without food.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

      • zaphod says:

        so many people going without food. really? where?
        “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

        President Dwight D. Eisenhower, l952—–

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

        • Mr. Holly says:

          Open your eyes and just drive around and take a look at all of the homeless people. Why do they have food kitchens? What is ECHO al about. Yes, your opinion are absolutely correct that it’s politically correct t protect everyone whenever they can vote for you irregardless of the outcome.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • topper01 says:

      They have also created a lot of jobs (something that is lacking in our present day society) paid a lot of taxes (Property, income, sales and a host of others). and have brought in money from outside of Calif and even USA to our local economy.
      To be net zero on water usage means loosing a lot of tax income for Paso Robles and SLO county and adding to our unemployment – which cost us tax payers money instead of paying into our coiffures.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

      • Mr. Holly says:

        They have also contributed to te immigration problem.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

        • topper01 says:

          Most are homeless by choice, or by choices they have made in the past.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

          • topper01 says:

            Sorry, that posted in the wrong spot. Do we have an immigration problem? or are you referring to an ILLEGAL immigration problem? In which case there are laws already on the books to deal with that. I know, the Obeyme administration refuses to follow the law of the land. That does not mean that the laws do not exist to address that problem.
            I am more concerned with the “immigrate” that refuses to work and takes our tax money without doing anything in return.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. taxpayer says:

    In the 40’s and 50’s almonds were a thriving business in Paso Robles and employed many people. Maybe almonds will once again return as a viable crop for the area.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  4. Pelican1 says:

    This seems a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. Weather cycles come and go. Are these growers being paid some sort of subsidy for plowing under their vineyards? Perhaps their is such a glut of grape growers these days that it’s simply not worth the effort given the price of wine.
    At any rate, it seems a bit extreme.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 11

    • MaryMalone says:

      I don’t see it as a “knee-jerk” reaction at all.

      Many vineyards are located in dry areas that don’t have sufficient annual precipitation to support vineyards. They are located in dry areas because it helps avoid some of the disease and pest issues found in more moist climates. Vineyards located in dry areas need supplemental sources of water and those sources are not infinite. Even the water-sucker grape growers in Paso have a short window of opportunity in front of them. The Paso GW Basin is already stressed, and the water-suckers are making that problem much worse.

      So if the Paso water-suckers aren’t part of the farmers hedging their bets by planting more sustainable crops now, they may find themselves facing years of waiting for orchards to grow before they can start profiting from their land again.

      Those looking towards the obvious climate change are wise enough to know that it will take time to bring an orchard to its first crop. If they start now in switching their land to orchards, they will still have income from the land they leave in vines for the transition period.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 8

      • Pelican1 says:

        I’m not sure about the sustainability of orchards. Look what has happened in the central valley. Ill managed water, the transition from dry farming to grape growing and the years of drought have created this mess.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

      • Mr. Holly says:

        Grape vines can be head pruned where they are not watered. That is an option that is available. At the same time I believe that during the first few years when almond trees or other trees are initially planted in orchards they require a significant amount of water to get established. So where is the gain? $$$$$$

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

        • MaryMalone says:

          Establishing a tree is like establishing any plant at any stage of its life.

          In other words, when the tree is little, it requires less water, and as it grows, it requires more water.

          When a plant is mature, its water needs will no longer be increasing, but will be static.

          An almond tree produces much more fruit than does a grape vine. An orchard grower has many options for controlling water consumption by the trees.

          With all plants, including trees, you can decrease water to a certain point beyond which the plant will start stressing. If the stress reaches the limits of the plant, the plant will fail.

          Modern farmers use whatever means possible to control the water intake of the plants they farm because too much water can be as bad as too little water.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  5. MaryMalone says:

    I am assuming that CCN realizes the photo they published with this article is bunches of grapes photoshopped on top of a background of marijuana leaves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 4

  6. womanwhohasbeenthere says:

    Let’s put this in perspective: We are talking about less than 4% of the grapes being ripped out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  7. Jorge Estrada says:

    A classic example of market driven and not tuff gov.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

    • MaryMalone says:

      Grape-growers in Paso aren’t following suit, are they?

      In areas where there is a shortage of water available to wine-growers, the growers are being forced to switch to crops they can grow with the water available. I highly doubt they would tear out vines to grow a less water-sucking crop if they didn’t have to.

      That’s the problem in Paso….the grape growers are still being allowed to suck up as much water as they want, and even continue to plant more vines.

      The growers in Paso will stop growing grapes after they have sucked every drop out of the GW basin, and Paso is left behind in the dust.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 11

      • Jorge Estrada says:

        Agriculturist use the word, work, in their industry. The word, suck, is used in other venues. As for water, the debate is over growing houses or growing food. One feeds the gov and the other feeds everyone.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

        • MaryMalone says:

          The debate isn’t over growing houses or growing food.

          The debate is over letting a quick-profits hooch industry to suck up all the water in the Paso GW Basin to send it into morbidity.

          As far as “suck” versus “work,” I think the greedy grape growers in Paso SUCK.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 8

  8. jarhead says:

    I guess it could be worse , like colorado and washington pull up the food and grow DOPE for all the stoners

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 19

    • MaryMalone says:

      The same argument could be made about using grapes for wine and corn for hooch.

      Pot is being grown, anyway. At least there will be less incentive to trash the environment while they are doing it, and the state’s people will benefit from having it taxed.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 10

    • bobfromsanluis says:

      jarhead: You are definitely “old school”; DOPE is something that is created in laboratory type setting, using various chemicals – cannabis, marijuana, is a naturally growing plant, in fact it grows so well and so easily that it was given the nickname “weed” for that very reason. I have yet to try it, but eventually once it is made legal, I will give it a try. It isn’t DOPE.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 13

    • jrstone says:

      Or maybe you should pull-up all the hops used for beer and replace it with soy beans, maybe? And pulling up all grains, fruits and vegetables used in distilled alcohol and replace them with, well, with something that can’t be used for distilling alcohol (pretty narrow choices there, ya think?)? Besides, pot is a great “cash crop”, and, believe-you-me, California would find a way to tax it to hell-and-back.

      Colorado sold over a million dollars worth of the stuff ON THE FIRST DAY it went on the market! So, with their 25% tax the state made $250K in ONE DAY (15% going to their schools… nice!)! Damn! With the amount of people who smoke pot in this state, well, let’s get them grapes pulled quick and replace them with some good ol’ cannabis!

      Bye-the-way jarhead, before you go jumping to conclusions, I don’t smoke pot, can’t say I never have, but I don’t now. And to be honest with you, I’d much rather hang around with a bunch of pot heads then a bunch of stuffed shirt wine drinkers or way to often angry alcoholics! They just seem to laugh more and the only real threat they pose is to my ample supply of Ding-Dongs and milk….

      One more thing; it takes about 1.25 gallons of water to put a glass of wine on your table! And pot? Much less! Much, much less! About 1/100th of that (from what I’ve read) to put one joint in your hand!

      So really! Lets replace all those acres of grape vines with cannabis! Our state money problems would probably, well, go up in smoke!

      Just sayin’….

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 8

      • MaryMalone says:

        “Or maybe you should pull-up all the hops used for beer and replace it with soy beans, maybe?”

        Let’s pull up all the hops used for beer and replace it with a REAL cash crop: pot.

        If we are going to whore our GW basins, lets get the most out of it we can.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

      • topper01 says:

        Why is it you compare Marijuana with alcohol? The only thing they have in common is that they both twist reality to fit the state of mind you want to be in. Having said that, let’s compare it with Heroin instead. Heroin, much like morphine, is a great pain killer and also alters your reality.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

        • jrstone says:

          There is no comparing the two, that’s my point. But our society, in general, has accepted alcohol has a “norm'” even though it’s far more dangerous than any illicit drug out there (it kills twice as many people every year than ALL illicit drugs combined! And that fact does not take into account alcohol related traffic deaths, homicides induced by alcohol or any other type of alcohol induced deaths outside of disease).

          While pot, and other “dope”, are demonized, along with their users, alcohol, and alcoholics, get a pass. Why? Because it generates local, state and federal revenue (it’s taxed to hell-and-back), it is widely accepted as not being a drug per se and the ill-conceived “disease concept” of alcoholism has been generally accepted.

          For the life of me I cannot understand the notion that most in this country have; that somehow by legalizing drugs, pot included, we will suddenly have this huge increase in deprived, dangerous “dope fiends” running the streets endangering us all. All the while we think that responsible adults can drink alcohol to their hearts content without fear or repercussion from its highly addictive qualities, and, unlike heroin addicts, alcoholism is so socially acceptable that many addicts don’t recognize their problem. Talk about a double standard.

          Okay, lets compare heroin to alcohol! Both have been used for medicinal purposes, both are highly addictive and both alter your reality, after that the differences are stark:

          1). You can take a heroin addict and put him in a room with minimal to no non-medical supervision and he or she can “kick” the habit (the degree of discomfort and the time it takes to do so is usually defined by how long they have been using). Can’t do that with an alcoholic. D.T.’s (detoxification) from alcohol can kill you! Medical supervision is a necessity to “kick” alcoholism, especially with those that have been alcoholic for any extended period of time. “Kicking” heroin is never fatal.

          2). Alcohol has been linked to over 60 diseases, heroin 0 (HIV, and the Hepatitis family are not a product of heroin, they are the byproduct of unsanitary usage of the paraphernalia used to inject the heroin into the body).

          3). Heroin causes no organ damage while alcohol literally damages every organ in the body of the alcoholic.

          4). Women who drink during pregnancy risk far more health problems to their child (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)) than one who uses heroin. Using either is not good, both can lead to death of the child (during pregnancy and after birth) , but the long term affects on a child of a mother who drank while pregnant is far more damaging than that of one who used heroin.

          I could go on but you get the gist of this, right? There is one other thing to consider; it is the materials used to cut heroin by it’s dealers that pose the biggest threat to the user, not the heroin itself. If it was pure heroin the only real inherent risk (other than addiction and public stigma of being a heroin addict) is the user not knowing the proper “dosage’ and ODing.

          I could go into the argument of why we should legalize this stuff as well but not now…

          Just sayin’….

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. racket says:

    I do not follow this the inference of this article. How does replacing grape vines with almonds and other fruit trees address drought issues?

    My guess is that there is a missing paragraph which explains that the farmers are pulling low-return crops now to alleviate their drought conditions. And then will replant higher value crops later, when the water situation is better.

    Any other guesses?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 7

    • mollypj says:

      Grapes requires lots and lots of water – almonds, olives and grains can be dry farmed – the reason so many people here in San Luis Obispo County, especially in the North County, are running out of water and having to take their wells 100 – 200 feet deeper (if they can afford to) is because of all of the wine grapes sucking up all the water from the water table. This is NOT agriculture; this is alcoholculture – these people are growing food, they’re growing alcoholic beverages! This area used to feed thousands upon thousands of people with crops like almonds, walnuts, grains, safflower and other dry crops that did not need irrigation.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 32 Thumb down 3

      • mollypj says:

        That should have said “these people are NOT growing food”

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

      • racket says:

        According UC Davis, grapes require ±6 inches of additional water annually. Oranges, 24″. Don’t know about almonds or olives. Almonds, olives and grapes all used to be dry farmed, but largely none of them are anymore.

        Show me the savings when switching from grapes to anything else.

        Maybe oats or barley, but I doubt you could make a tractor payment on grain income, much less a land payment.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 7

        • MaryMalone says:

          Which UC Davis publication are you referencing?

          The article doesn’t specify, but I assume the farmers are switching to stone fruits. This is because they specify “almonds and other tree fruits” as requiring less water.

          Obviously, citrus and tropical fruit trees require more water than stone fruits.

          Stone fruits go deciduous over the winter, so they require less water. The fruit production is also generally less water intensive.

          Climates vary greatly in California. Growers use a formula which includes the evapotranspiration rate for optimum irrigation.

          Unless they farm in places like Paso, where they can still guzzle all the water they can access.

          So I think it can be assumed that the farmers switching from grapes to other less-water-intensive crops are doing it because the climate where the crop is grown provides less native moisture. Those grape-growers who can still access enough water to grow grapes will probably do just that.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

          • racket says:

            Mary, It takes a little digging, but it’s all right here:

            http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu/

            More than you ever wanted to know about the economics of many different crops. It references water use by crop (to show irrigation as a line item for expenses) for each crop it studies.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

      • interest says:

        Wine Grapes
        In Paso Robles grapes require around 1 acre foot of supplemental water (irrigation) in a normal rainfall year, about 28 inches of total water.

        Almonds
        Mature conventionally spaced almond trees in the Southern Sacramento Valley can use about 41- 44 inches of water in an average year of unrestricted water use. High-density orchards, long pruned orchards, or those with a cover crop can have even higher use. . Soil moisture monitoring demonstrations in more than 40 almond orchards in Kern County indicate that seasonal water use in the southern San Joaquin Valley may be as high as 50 – 54 inches (Sanden 2007). Figure 1 shows a typical water use pattern for fully irrigated and a deficit irrigation regime for almond in the Manteca area.

        http://ucmanagedrought.ucdavis.edu/Agriculture/Crop_Irrigation_Strategies/Almonds/

        Olives
        Olive Crop Water Use When Fully Irrigated
        Sacramento Valley inches/month
        Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
        0.92 1.22 2.14 3.41 4.60 5.51 6.36 5.47 4.07 2.69 1.19 0.75 38.33

        San Joaquin Valley inches/month
        Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
        0.78 1.22 2.49 3.68 5.00 5.81 6.35 5.51 4.09 2.60 1.12 0.60 39.25

        http://ucmanagedrought.ucdavis.edu/Agriculture/Crop_Irrigation_Strategies/Olives/

        You choose the crop that uses water best.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    • MaryMalone says:

      It takes longer to bring almond and fruit trees to crop than it does grape vines.

      It is expensive to pull up grape fines and replant them with almond and fruit trees.

      I don’t think they would be planting fruit and almond trees if they thought it was a temporary condition they are facing.

      If things change and California becomes a more water-plentiful state, maybe the next generation of farmers will go back to wine grapes. However, I don’t think the current generation will. This has to be catastrophic to deal with, and I don’t think a farmer would make a short-term change to orchards if they didn’t see it as the answer for the long term.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

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