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YAKIMA VALLEY: USDA Responds to Murray, Cantwell, Purchases $11.5 million of Concord Grape Juice

Feb 03 2014

Under risk of damaging price fluxuations, USDA action will stabilize market prices for critical Washington state industry

Washington is home to more than 240 Concord grape farmers, 10,600 acres of Concord vineyards

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, in response to a request from U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a $11.5 million nationwide purchase of Concord grape juice, which is grown in the Yakima Valley, a move that will provide stability for a critical Washington state agriculture industry.  Because of consecutive, exceptionally strong crop years, farmers in Washington state expressed concerns that a large excess in Concord grape supplies could cause the price of juice grapes to plummet and significantly harm one of Washington’s premier agriculture industries.  

After working closely with agriculture experts and local farmers in 2013, Senators Cantwell and Murray wrote directly to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on August 1st, requesting the USDA purchase a large quantity of Concord grape juice supplies for use through other USDA nutrition programs.  Washington state’s Yakima Valley has more than 10,600 acres of Concord grape vineyards tended to by more than 240 growers.  Additional facilities that process these grapes into juice and concentrate also support many more families in the Yakima Valley.

“This announcement from the USDA is great news for the 240 juice grape farmers in Washington state,” Cantwell said. “This means more stable prices for Washington grape growers and the many jobs they support. Senator Murray and I thank the Washington state farmers who brought this issue to our attention. We are glad it has reached a fair conclusion that keeps unstable prices from hurting a critical Washington agricultural market.”

“Washington’s fruit farmers have made the Yakima Valley world-famous for grapes, juices, and wines, and today’s action by the USDA will ensure these local farmers and agriculture workers won’t be harmed by dangerous price fluxuations beyond their control,” said Senator Murray.  “We’ve been working closely with local farmers who spotted a potentially significant market disruption, and after working with Secretary Vilsack, I’m pleased we were able to secure a critical USDA investment in an industry that supports hundreds of Washington families and businesses.”

Full text of the letter sent by Senators Cantwell and Murray to Secretary Vilsack is below:

August 1, 2013

The Honorable Tom Vilsack
United States Secretary of Agriculture

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We are writing on behalf of over 244 Concord grape farmers in Washington state with more than 10,600 acres of Concord vineyards.

Recently, we became aware of concerns with an expected high volume of Concord grape juice in this year’s crop and the carryover impacts this could have on cooperative and independent growers.  This will result in a high potential for excessive supplies this fall which would drive down the price of juice grapes.

We request that Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) work with the industry to reduce the Concord juice inventory with a significant bonus purchase early in FY 2014 for the commodity programs serviced by AMS.  Bonus buys by AMS in fiscal years 2006 and 2007 were very effective at stabilizing the market.  They also served to stabilize Concord markets several times in the 1990s and 1980s.

Time is of the essence given the extraordinary large crop expected this year.  The anticipated carryover must be reduced as quickly as possible to minimize effects on Concord growers.  In addition to helping growers in Washington, a bonus buy purchase would assist hundreds of growers throughout the U.S. including in Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.                  

Thank you for considering this request.  Please keep our offices informed of the Department’s efforts to support Concord grape growers.



Maria Cantwell
U.S. Senator

Patty Murray
U.S. Senator