By Jason Feulner, Finger Lakes Correspondent
The Wine Grape Task Force formed last year under the Department of Agriculture and Markets released its report in December (warning: the online format is bit cumbersome to read). The task force lays out an interesting set of recommendations but there remain some lingering questions about implementation.
The report is comprehensive and seems to address many of the general concerns of the wine and grape-growing industries in New York State. It is obvious that many of those in attendance were well-versed, industry experts. Unfortunately, addressing concerns and solving problems are entirely different activities.
As I inferred in a post when the task force was formed, no matter what one writes in a report with the best of intentions, government and bureaucracy stand in the way of getting things done unless the proper stars are aligned. Some of the recommendations could be implemented with minor adjustments to enforcement of existing policies. Many others will require some real changes at several intersecting agencies.
The varied collection of interests that form this task force may be a strength in terms of lobbying for these changes. Concurrently, one of the weaknesses of such a group is that each member has a different set of needs in terms of business and geography. It may be easier to satisfy one constituency which has better representation, lobbying, or even a problem that has a ready-made solution, while other more difficult problems persist in other areas.
One of the elements of the report that will have to be reconsidered is its reliance on the state's ability to push economic development through specific agencies that would likely coordinate with the New York Wine and Grape Foundation. Since the release of the report, the state has been hit with considerable fiscal problems, threatening the existence of the NYWGF as well as the multitude of state programs that provided extra cash for all kinds of unique projects.
This report resembles an interesting perspective on the nature of the New York wine industry. Part of it looks to the future, hoping for an industry less encumbered by antiquated state regulations. At the same time, part of the report wants to rely on the past cadre of state agencies and programs that have tried to promote New York's industries in a centralized manner for decades, with arguably mixed success.
Recent events seem to indicate that the state may be unable to play as big a hand in industry and economic development. As for the future of the New York wine industry, I wish the task force luck as they begin to engage the specific recommendations found within their report, although its unclear if the task force can or will advocate for specific reommendations now that the report has been released.