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Congresswoman gets insight into wine industry

Industry — Representative pays a visit to A to Z Wineworks to discuss industry issues and local businesses benefitting from international trade


Newberg was visited by one of Oregon’s federal representatives last week on a tour of Yamhill County small businesses with a focus on discussing trade and business development.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici toured A to Z Wineworks on the eastern edge of the city, learning about the winery’s large-scale expansion project as well as some of the challenges the wine industry will face in the coming years.GARY ALLEN - Touring the facility - Rep. Suzanne Bonamici visited Newberg's A to Z Wineworks last week for a tour led by winemaker Sam Tannahill. Discussion topics included some of the challenges facing the industry as well as   climate change and its implications.

One of those, unsurprisingly, is climate change. Bonamici’s tour guide, A to Z Wineworks owner Sam Tannahill, explained that while in the short term the altered climate has not been too pressing of an issue for the grape harvest and in some cases has actually improved it, further down the line it is projected to present some serious problems.

“In the long term it’s going to be a big issue,” Tannahill said.

The climate refugee phenomenon, which accompanies predictions of a large influx of people moving to the northwest in the coming decades, is at work in agricultural industries as well.

The water shortage in California, for instance, has already begun to affect the Oregon market as businesses have purchased large tracts of land in the fertile Willamette Valley, where obtaining water is not as much of a problem. It makes sense from a business standpoint and it’s only going to continue.

“Eighty percent of privately held land is going to change hands over the next 20 years,” Tannahill said.

This has had the side effect of pricing out locals who want to get into the winemaking business and has even affected longtime families whose children can now not afford to buy their parents’ land. The land subsequently falls into ownership by out-of-state interests, Tannahill explained.

Bonamici also touched on how trade agreements, such as the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership in negotiations in Congress, have the potential to benefit small local businesses.

“Our Oregon wineries and our berry, potato and nut farms all sell their quality products internationally,” she said before the tour. “The ability of trade agreements to open and expand markets to sell overseas will help these local businesses continue to support their workforce and hire more employees.”

When President Obama visited Oregon in May, Tannahill was among a group of representatives of four Oregon companies that met to discuss their support for the TPP following the president’s speech at Nike, The Oregonian reported.

During an April 1 town hall meeting at PCC’s Newberg campus, Bonamici and Sen. Jeff Merkley also discussed the TPP, explaining that it is the topic that comes up more frequently than any other on their tours around the state.

“(People are) really worried that jobs will be shipped overseas, people are concerned about that looking back at history,” Bonamici said at the town hall. “But I also have to say, I have frequent conversations with people here who will grow their businesses if this is done right. This is a district that exports significantly, especially in the agricultural sector and high-tech.”

In June, Bonamici voted to support the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act, which reauthorized Trade Promotion Authority — often referred to as “fast track.” Negotiations on the TPP remain ongoing.

Following the visit to A to Z Wineworks, Bonamici and her staff paid visits to Carlton for a tour of the town’s small businesses as well as Kookoolan Farms in Yamhill.

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