OGGWMA President Terry Lewis Corrects Inaccurate Statements in Daily Oklahoman

President Terry Lewis corrects inaccurate statements in Daily Oklahoman:
To: Mr. John Greiner, The Daily Oklahoma
In care of the Daily Oklahoman Capitol Bureau staff

From the Oklahoma Grape Growers and Wine Makers Association
Reference March 26, Page 2B article “Retailers criticize wine fee proposal�
Fax: 521-8906

Dear Mr. Greiner,

Thank you so much for your article about the HB2219 bill which will establish the Oklahoma Grape and Wine Commission and provide funding for matching grants for education, agri-tourism and market development for Oklahoma’s value added grape industry.

Please note that the membership figure stated in the article is incorrect. There are 21+ wineries that belong to the organization. In addition there are over 128 vineyard members and additionally, business associate members who serve the needs of the vineyard and winery infrastructure. Your article said that there are 21 members. Our total membership is over 200, all in the business of adding value to Oklahoma’s grape crop. In Rep. Danny Morgan’s district alone there are 16 vineyards and 2 licensed wineries. Senator Gilmer Capps represents 10 vineyards and 1 winery. If you examine our website: www.oklahomawines.org you can see that the Oklahoma Grape Growers and Wine Makers Association is spread through out rural Oklahoma.

We are attaching for your review, and possible use in correcting the facts and figures about our industry, our July 2003 vine count survey showing varieties and counties where grape vineyards are growing. This spring thousands of new vines are being planted to increase our crop presence and add to the fantastic economic growth of our industry. At Sparks Vineyard, 3000 new plants will be established. EVERY PLANT THAT COMES FROM CALIFORNIA IS ASSESSED A 1% CALIFORNIA TAX FOR THE CALIFORNIA VINE IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

Oklahomans receive no refund on that tax to California.

The Extension course in Grape Management course offered at the OSU Perkins testing facility, taught by retired professor Dean McCraw has been oversubscribed for the last five years. OSU has no continuing source to fund the program beyond the next six months. When HB2219 is passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor, we will have the tool necessary to train the next generation of Oklahomans within the borders of our state. Panhandle State University, St. Gregory’s University and OSU are all looking forward to the opportunities this statewide commission will provide for funding for university curriculum.

Missouri Grape and Wine Program, Washington Wine Commission, and Indiana Wine Grape Council all fund their grape research and enology programs with per gallon assessments on wine sold within their borders.

Three of the 9 members of the Oklahoma Grape and Wine Commission will be appointed by the Governor, including one from the Department of Commerce and one from the Department of Agriculture. The Oklahoma Grape and Wine Commission is organized according to Oklahoma state law. It will be subject to sunset review by the Legislature. The commission has delineated duties and responsibilities that it must perform according to the law.

In regards to the quote by Kenneth Nance calling it a ridiculous tax increase. This commission is funded by assessment on producers NOT consumers. It is not a tax. No Oklahoma winery or grape grower is going to pass what amounts to two cents per bottle or 1.3 cents per pound of grapes on to an Oklahoma wine consumer. Only the value added producer is assessed and all producers are assessed at an equal rate.

If you would like to confirm with official sources, Dr. Barry Bloyd, the State Statistician for Oklahoma has census data from the last Ag Census, which are going to be released in June. He is familiar with our own data. Please refer to House staff that helped to write HB2219 for the definition of a tax versus an assessment.

Thank you again for your interest in our industry. Every person who is working to get the Oklahoma Grape and Wine Commission passed into law is a VOLUNTEER! Paid lobbyists, who receive several thousand dollars each to fight us, represent our opponents.

For further comment, please contact
Dr. Terry Lewis
President, Oklahoma Grape Growers and Wine Makers Association
Or cell 580-541-1070
The Official Tourism Website of Oklahoma Wineries and Vineyards.

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