Texas Winegrowers Concerned About Herbicides

Texas winemakers are preparing to push for new regulations on herbicides used by cotton farmers and others, which they say can severely damage their vineyards.

"If the damage is continuing as we suspect it will, there won't be any wine to drink," said Debbie Reynolds, executive director of the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association in Grapevine. "Some grape harvests won't even happen."

Industry leaders say that once sprayed by crop dusters, the herbicides can drift miles in the wind to their own fields.

"The vapor from that drift can last for several days," Reynolds said. "So while someone may spray here, that spray could drift for many, many miles."

According to the grape growers' association, some growers have lost between 60 to 70 percent of their crop.

Now, with the federal government set to approve the use of some new herbicides, wine growers are preparing legislation for state lawmakers to consider when they meet this month in Austin.

"We want to be able to control what types of herbicides are out there being used by any of the agricultural entities – cotton, it doesn't matter what it is," Reynolds said. "And to make sure they understand the impact of the drift on our vineyards, which is huge. It's huge."

The Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association reports the industry adds $2.29 billion to the state's economy.

Texas is the country's fifth largest wine producer, filling more than 15 million bottles each year.

As of the end of 2015, a total of 333 wineries across the state employed 12,797 people.

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