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Monday, April 15, 2024
Feds extend winery support program with $177 million over three years. Industry applauds major cash injection
Lawrence MacAulay, the federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, announced a $177-million investment over three years in Canada's grape and wine sector at Trius Winery in NOTL on March 1. Richard Huttion
Grape grower and NOTL councillor Erwin Weins, with Ontario Grape Growers CEO Debbie Zimmerman, attended the federal government's announcement of funding for the grape and wine industry at Trius Winery on March 1. Richard Huttion
Dan Paszkowski, CEO and president of the Wine Growers of Canada, welcomed the $177-million investment in the grape and wine sector by the federal government. Richard Huttion
Darien Temprile of the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network said the new funding will help the grape and wine sector mitigate the effects of extreme weather events fuelled by. climate change. Richard Huttion

There was a lot to like about an announcement that the federal government was investing more money in the grape and wine industry, Erwin Weins says.

“It’s a support for the local growers, the local wineries, the local businesses, the local worker, the manufacturers,” Weins said. “It helps out with sales, it helps out with equipment and education.”

Weins, a farmer who also sits on Niagara-on-the-Lake town council, was referring to a $177-million investment in the sector being made over the next three years.

The funding, which was announced by Lawrence MacAulay, the federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, on Friday, March 1, at Trius Wines in NOTL, is an extension of the government’s Wine Sector Support Program. 

The program was originally launched in July 2022 and provides financial support to wineries across the country. The new money brings the total commitment by Ottawa to $343 million.

“There’s three pillars to selling wine,” Weins said. “You’ve got the farmers, the wineries and the government.”

MacAulay, in making the announcement, called Niagara “one of the top wine regions in the world and is a player in the $11 billion injected into the Canadian economy annually.”

But there have also been times of uncertainty, including the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit tourism hard — wineries in Niagara are popular destinations for visitors — and now an increasing number of extreme weather events brought on by climate change.

This is where the government can help, MacAulay said.

“Our new funding will continue to help Canadian wineries meet the challenges and to compete and make sure we have successful generations to continue on.”

Despite the challenges, the future is bright, he said.

“I have no doubt that the new funding will help you to capture new markets around the world.”

After making the announcement, MacAulay told The Lake Report the government wants to support the sector and help it thrive in an increasingly competitive global market.

“We have some expertise in this country to make sure that we’re able to keep on the cutting edge,” MacAulay said.

“It’s important to realize we’re at this, but all other areas in the world are at this, too, so if you don’t keep cutting edge, you lose.”

Dan Paszkowski, president and CEO of the Wine Growers of Canada, said the funding will encourage growth in the sector and “accelerate the billions of economic impact the grape and wine industry contributes to the local, regional and the national economy.”

Every dollar the government has invested will result in a return on investment of $6.20, he said.

“This translates into $341 million per year, or $1 billion over the three-year period of the program.”

In addition to the announcement of the $177 million in support for wineries, MacAulay unveiled a further $6.7 million to the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network for two initiatives — its AgriScience Program ($5.9 million) and its AgriAssurance Program ($836,220).

Debbie Zimmerman, chief executive officer of the Grape Growers of Ontario, said that money will help growers prepare for a future under the spectre of extreme weather conditions fuelled by climate change.

“That’s absolutely critical for growers and you can see what’s happened (a major crop failure in British Columbia) when we don’t get the right weather at the right time,” she said. “If the plants are not clean, and they’re not virus-free, they don’t have the strength to survive.” 

Research will play a pivotal role in keeping the industry healthy, she added.

“You find ways to do things differently. That’s what we need to do.”

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