The Essentials of Grape Crop Insurance

By: Trevor Troyer – Vice President at Agricultural Risk Management, LLC

Grape cultivation is an art that dates back thousands of years, producing some of the finest wines and fruits enjoyed worldwide. However, vineyard owners face a range of challenges, from unpredictable weather patterns to diseases that can decimate their crops. That’s where grape crop insurance comes in. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of grape crop insurance, its benefits, and how it can safeguard the livelihood of vineyard owners.

The Importance of Grape Crop Insurance

  Grape crop insurance is a specialized form of crop insurance tailored to the unique risks associated with grape production. Grape crop insurance is an Actual Production History policy.  You are using an average of your historical production to determine the expected crop tonnage and value. It serves several critical purposes:

Protection Against Natural Disasters

  Vineyards are vulnerable to various natural disasters, including hailstorms, frost, excessive rainfall, and wildfires. A sudden and severe weather event can devastate a grape harvest, leading to significant financial losses. Grape crop insurance helps vineyard owners recover from these unexpected setbacks.  You are also covered for wildlife damage which could include birds, bears, deer etc.

Financial Stability

  Grape crop insurance promotes financial stability for vineyard owners. It provides a safety net that allows them to continue their operations even in the face of adversity. This stability is crucial, as the grape cultivation process is a long-term endeavor, with vines taking years to reach full production potential.  Grape Crop insurance is there to keep you growing.

Support for the Wine Industry

  The grape industry is a cornerstone of the global wine sector. Grape crop insurance not only benefits vineyard owners but also contributes to the overall success and sustainability of the wine industry. It ensures a consistent supply of high-quality grapes, which is essential for winemakers and consumers alike.

Types of Grape Crop Insurance

  There are several types of grape crop insurance policies available to vineyard owners:

Yield Protection

  Yield protection policies provide coverage based on the actual grape yield. If the yield falls below a certain threshold due to covered perils, the policyholder is compensated for the loss.  You can choose coverage levels from 50% all the way to 85% of your historical average.

Whole Farm Revenue Protection

  This type of insurance covers all the crops on the farm, including grapes, making it suitable for vineyards with diversified agricultural operations.  You can have yield coverage and have Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) in addition as an extra layer of security.

Government Assistance

  The USDA provide support to grape crop insurance programs. Subsidies and incentives make these policies more affordable for vineyard owners, encouraging wider adoption and helping ensure the sustainability of the grape industry.  Your premium is partially subsidized through the USDA, the amount of subsidy changes with coverage levels.

Availability

  Grape crop insurance is available in the following states; Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington state.   Crop insurance may not be available in all counties in these states.  But in a lot of cases, if you have a mature producing vineyard, you may be able to get coverage through a special request to the USDA.

Conclusion

  Grape crop insurance is an essential tool for vineyard owners, protecting their investments and ensuring the longevity of their vineyards. It safeguards against the unpredictable challenges of nature and diseases while promoting financial stability and supporting the larger wine industry.

B Cellars Embraces AI to Understand the Emotional Connection Between Brand and Consumers

Photo of B Cellars front entrance to their building

In the ever-evolving landscape of the wine industry, innovation is not just about viticulture and winemaking techniques; the new frontier is understanding the emotional bond between brand and customers. B Cellars, a trailblazer in the Napa Valley wine scene, took an early leap into the future by integrating artificial intelligence into its marketing and sales strategies. The results have allowed the company to carve out an enviable niche in the direct-to-consumer channel, which is the focus of their business model.

  In 2018, B Cellars distinguished itself as a pioneer in the winery-meets-AI space by employing Metis, a cutting-edge, AI-powered behavioral research program developed by a San Francisco-based company, Richey International. This move marked

B Cellars as among the first in the wine industry to seek consumer feedback through AI, with a focus on emotional connection to the brand.

  Metis, named for the Greek goddess of wisdom, was designed to delve deeper than traditional market research methods. It analyzes vast amounts of data, including social media and online review sites like TripAdvisor and Google Reviews, to provide insights into the emotional resonance a brand has with its customers and find best practices within specific industry segments. The AI searched for what consumers were saying about their experiences at B Cellars in comparison to a subset of other well-respected Napa Valley wine brands. It went a step further by also analyzing data from select non-winery businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and even retail stores; surprisingly, some of the most valuable insights for B Cellars came from analyzing the customer experience at Filson, the 130+-year-old Seattle-based outdoor clothing company.

  The next step was to invite past B Cellars guests to answer questions in writing. The instructions were clear and were meant to solicit thoughtful responses by noting respondents should “take as much time as you need to develop your response…we are listening carefully.” Participation in the survey was well above industry research norms.

  What Metis’ process revealed to B Cellars unlocked the essence of the relationships between B Cellars and their customers. Why did customers like the winery (apart from good wine)? What drove them to maintain a multi-year relationship? How could such a relationship endure when the customer was thousands of miles away?

  The answers became clear as Metis honed in on the core differentiators that consumers perceived about B Cellars: the “soul” of the brand was rooted in craftsmanship, terroir, and the idea of a lifestyle grounded in authenticity (as opposed glamour or floridity), plus appreciation of great quality wine, food, and entertaining in a manner that was elevated yet approachable. Metis found that while these elements were amply apparent to visitors to the B Cellars estate in Oakville, these factors were not highlighted effectively on the company’s website and online user experience. Simplifying and streamlining the website made it more inviting and accessible to potential customers and aligned better with the superior elements of the B Cellars brand. Once executed, the website simplification translated into a refined pre-visit experience between guests and the winery’s concierge team, which gave way to a unique arrival experience for guests.

  The insights B Cellars gained from the AI analysis of its in-person experience were also eye-opening. From Metis’ data analysis, the winery learned that their wine tastings were undervalued. So, they increased prices by an unprecedented 30%; this adjustment aligned the perceived value of their offerings with the high quality of their wines and curated food pairing experiences. The price increase also heighted the perceived luxury of the experience, which led to increased bookings to visit the estate.

  Furthermore, Metis’ insights led to a reimagining of B Society, an offering that encourages ongoing purchases of its wines. Before Metis, B Society wines were predetermined for its subscribers based on previous purchases; however, AI recommended a totally customizable wine purchase approach that allowed consumers more control over choosing selections for each shipment. Metis also challenged the B Cellars approach to Society gatherings. Today, gatherings are designed to encourage deeper connections between the B Cellars team and their clients by having more intimate gatherings and allocating visiting hours exclusively for returning guests. These changes have not only improved customer relationships but also reduced attrition rates, which now sit well below industry norms.

  The results of incorporating AI into the winery’s strategy have been remarkable. B Cellars enjoyed a 7% increase in annual winery visits with in the first year of implementing the Metis findings, plus a notable improvement in customer engagement, loyalty, and referrals. These changes underscore the potential of AI in transforming not just marketing strategies but the very fabric of the customer relationship. The key was deeply analyzing a comparable set of businesses and listening carefully to its customers, just as B Cellars had promised to do. In the final analysis, Metis showed that B Cellars customers wanted to believe in the winery’s ethos of integrity and authenticity. While most wineries market themselves based on what’s in the bottle, their scores, or a continuous stream of marketing campaigns,

B Cellars sought substance, which has translated into a durable emotional connection with its customers.

  The success of the B Cellars story provides a roadmap for other wineries to follow as AI inevitably becomes more integrated into all of our lives. The implications of the winery’s pioneering use of AI extend beyond their own success; it opens up a realm of possibilities for other wineries and vineyards. The wine industry, traditionally reliant on conventional marketing and customer relationship techniques, is already starting to think of AI as a viable tool for enhancing business models, especially in the DTC segment, which has grown significantly during and since the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020.

  Moreover, the adaptability of AI tools like Metis means they can be tailored to different business needs, whether it’s refining product offerings, enhancing customer experiences, or developing more effective marketing strategies.

  The innovative approach of Be Cellars incorporating AI into their marketing and customer relationship strategies sets a new benchmark in the wine industry. As the industry continues to evolve, AI will undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping the future of winery and vineyard operations, not only in the sales and marketing spaces, but also in optimizing elements of the wine business like farming practices, supply chain, and even winemaking techniques. The experience of B Cellars using novel AI tools demonstrates that the fusion of technology and tradition can lead to unparalleled success in the wine world.

Exploring Accommodation Options at Wineries

Picture of front of a winery building entrance connected to 3 metal silos

By: Becky Garrison  

Wineries looking to provide their guests with elevated wine-tasting experiences might want to explore the option of offering accommodations at their winery or vineyard. Kristen Baxter, operations manager for Abbey Road Farm in Carlton, Oregon, said, “Our lodging is integral to our business model, as it allows winery guests and event guests to stay overnight while they are here enjoying wine or celebrating with us.”

  Carrie Bonney, general manager for Youngberg Hill (McMinnville, Oregon), concurs, adding, “Lodging contributes to our reputation for exceptional hospitality and helping to sustain and grow our overall operation.” In addition, their lodging serves as a revenue stream that supports their broader mission and allows them to invest in the enhancement and maintenance of their property.

  In Bonney’s estimations, this is just one piece of the experience they aim to provide our guests, and it complements their primary focus, wine. “By offering a range of comfortable and thoughtfully designed accommodations, we aim to create a welcoming environment where guests can relax, unwind and fully immerse themselves in a unique experience. This, in turn, enhances their overall visit and encourages return visits and positive word-of-mouth referrals,” Bonney adds.

Lodging Options Available at Wineries

  As noted by the following examples, the types of accommodations available at a given winery vary from a rustic cabin cozy for two to a luxury country-style mansion replete with five-star amenities.

  Lumos Wines’ (Philomath, Oregon) vineyard is situated on what was the H Bar H Dude Ranch back in the 1940s and 1950s. The one-bedroom cabin with indoor plumbing was one of the original guest cabins built in 1938 and can accommodate up to two people. They maintain this little cabin to keep the historical feel of the place. In another historical touch, their tasting room is in the old dude ranch’s dance hall barn.

  Colter’s Creek Winery & Vineyards (Moscow, Idaho) began offering lodging at their tasting room because they had an open space that needed remodeling, and they saw a hole in the Moscow lodging market to fulfill. They have four boutique rooms above their tasting room in Moscow available via self-check-in, with bookings that can be made through their website.  Different packages are offered, each room comes with a complimentary wine tasting and with enough planning, guests can visit the vineyard and production facility 45 minutes away in Juliaetta.

  Abbey Road Farm’s (Carlton, Oregon) Silo Suites B&B is housed in three-grain silos. Two of the silos were built in 2003 when the property was a grass seed farm. The third was added to complete the project the winery opened in 2019. The silos boast a grand entry and sitting area with a wet bar. Their five suites feature foam-topped beds, Jacuzzi tubs, luxurious bedding and ambient floor heating. Stays include a bounteous Oregon breakfast prepared by on-site chef/innkeeper Will Preisch.

  Youngberg Hill had already been functioning as an inn since 1989, when they planted their oldest blocks, the Natasha and Jordan blocks. They chose to maintain this inn as a nine-room bed and breakfast offering comfortable rooms and suites, an open-air deck, spectacular views for sunsets and stargazing, and a fireplace beside which to relax with a glass of wine. A two-course breakfast keeps guests fueled up for a day sightseeing around the Willamette Valley.

  In a similar vein, Hummingbird Estate (Central Point, Oregon) converted a historic private home and former orchard into a vineyard and tasting room, event space and inn. Renovating the home’s bedrooms into suites made the most sense for the space. Here, guests can enjoy a glass of chardonnay, syrah or pinot noir while taking in the view of grapevines from their windows. In addition, they have a vineyard cottage available for rent.

  Also, when Grosgrain Vineyards (Walla Walla, Washington) acquired their winery/vineyard property via a bankruptcy auction in 2017, the only structure on the property at the time was a house where the previous owner had made his wine in the garage.  They needed a significantly larger winery space, so they built their current winery and tasting room in an adjacent area. They considered moving into the house themselves but decided that it was better suited to use as a short-term rental, which would be a great way for them to provide a more immersive experience. The house has four bedrooms and four baths, all of which are en-suite, with the house rented as a single unit on a nightly basis.

  So far, the house has been a great way to host new customers who experience their winery for the first time, as well as their wine club members who can book further in advance and at a discounted rate. Also, this house provides a great way for them to host their national distributors and further educate them about their winery. While the revenue it generates has been significant, more importantly, staying at this home helps guests build a deeper connection with the winery.

  The Joy on the Anahata (which translates to the heart chakra in Sanskrit) Vineyard (Salem, Oregon) is a luxury wine country retreat and 6,500-square-foot home with seven bedrooms (four suites, two queen rooms and one twin room in the basement for a nanny or younger children.) This house sits on top of the vineyard at 550 feet with views in every direction, and the gated 30-acre property is fenced in for deer. Other amenities include a chef’s kitchen, living room, dining/family room and outdoor heated swimming pool and hot tub, as well as a basement with a wine cellar and ping pong and pool tables. This property is rented as a “hospitality home” designed for family retreats, work retreats, YPO retreats and, in some cases, smaller than 100-person weddings. As they don’t have a tasting room built yet with their wines poured at Carlton Winemakers Studio, this house provides an opportunity for guests to taste their products as they collect their information.

  Bianchi Vineyards (East Wenatchee, Washington) chose to rent the two-bedroom house on their property as a short-term Airbnb experience. In addition, they have two RV spots with power and water. Some guests visit the tasting room for their complimentary tasting. Others enjoy hiking, skiing and concerts at the Gorge Amphitheater.

Recommendations for Designing Lodging at a Winery 

  Bonney stresses that offering lodging is not for the faint of heart. “This can be a significant undertaking, but it is also an excellent enhancement to your guest experience and can put your winery on the map as a unique destination. While it can eventually enhance your overall revenue streams, a great deal of investment is involved.”

  Meghann Walk, general manager for Hummingbird Estate, reminds those looking to invest in lodging that while lodging is an extension of their long-standing tradition of hospitality, it is not passive income. She reflects, “The inn is our most stable but also, in many ways, the most constantly demanding aspect of our business. There is no such thing as only answering phone calls during open hours. Make sure you are prepared for this.”

  Before launching a lodging program, Bonney recommends conducting market research for your area, determining lodging demands and assessing the type of accommodations guests will want. Along those lines, familiarize yourself with zoning and permitting regulations for your area before you start any work.

  Also, Baxter notes that conducting market research into other lodging options in your area can enable you to curate a unique experience from competitors to help you stand out. “Consider putting together packages unique to your property and potential discounts for loyal wine club members for additional benefits,” she says.

  In designing the lodging, Bonney recommends ensuring that the overall design provides a comfortable and memorable experience for your guests. Think about room options and various views, private patios and accommodating children or pets, as well as sustainable practices, such as energy-efficient appliances, water conservation, composting and eco-friendly amenities. In addition, consider if you want to offer wine tasting and breakfast as part of the lodging experience or if those will be separate options for purchase.

  Don’t neglect security and safety. Consider outdoor lighting, security cameras and post-emergency exit procedures for guests to see.

  Also, Bonney stresses that wineries need to ensure they have the appropriate trained staff. In addition to scheduling and maintaining guest reservations, they must know local restaurants, tour operators, spa services and other area happenings. “Anyone from the front desk staff to the housekeepers who will be interacting with guests must excel in customer relations,” she said. Baxter offers this cautionary reminder, “Your housekeeper will be your most valuable and least replaceable employee.”

  A CRM (customer relationship management) staff member will be needed to help maintain contact with guests, book rooms and provide an online booking option. Along those lines, online travel agencies like Expedia and Tripadvisor can help expand exposure.

  Finally, Bonney recommends that those seeking to add lodging as a service, embrace it fully. She proclaims, “You and your staff can create a holistic and integrated experience, develop new ambassadors for your brand and most importantly, sell more wine!”

The Producers’ Blind Spot

The Role of the Municipality and Local Ordinances and the Producers’ Operational Goals

picture entitled zoning ordinance zoning and land use planning

By:  Louis J. Terminello, Esq. and Bradley Berkman, Esq.

Let’s face it, many of us, likely including the writer(s) and readers alike, find the making of wine, beer, and spirits not only to be a labor of love that allows oneself to create artistic expressions in bottles, but we also find the trade and its finished products to be pretty darn exciting. It’s very much a lifestyle industry, that, simply put, is fun.

  Even in the arena that this writer operates in – that is, alcohol beverage law – the romance of the trade is far from lost. There is, however, one especially important regulatory area that is often overlooked by beverage alcohol producers and even legal practitioners in the field: the role of municipal ordinances and zoning regulations and its impact on beverage alcohol sales, service, and for the purposes of this article, production. It is doubtful that many winemakers, distillers, and brewers find this topic engrossing but without proper guidance and planning, a misstep at the local level could lead to disastrous consequences.

  Briefly, most in the trade understand the role of the federal and state governments, particularly those who produce beverages. Licensing schemes, reporting requirements, excise taxing structures, and trade practice issues (as in tied house) are all federal and state concerns. In fact, some local jurisdictions, namely cities and counties, do enforce local alcohol licensure and regulatory schemes that some readers may be aware of, but that is not the focus of this article. The issues that require parsing out in the limited space here are land use concerns and the various local administrative processes and procedures that affect all actors in the alcohol industry. Put another way, package stores, bars, restaurants, wineries, breweries, and distilleries alike must comport themselves and comply with local ordinances and zoning regulations.

Advent of Craft

  And along came the craft producer, and the spider sat down beside her. The rise of craft wineries, distilleries, and breweries has brought about a nuanced set of local challenges, encompassing aspects such as production facilities, warehousing for potential distribution, and the popular tasting room –often referred to as the bar. Not to be overlooked at the craft venue, are food sales in the various forms that they could take, including a restaurant on the premises or the ubiquitous food truck.

Zoning Districts-What are they?

  With the municipal jurisdiction in mind, i.e., a city or county, one must carefully analyze the zoning district within the city or county that is the site of the proposed operation, prior to commencing any real investment in building out the facility. Of course, an essential part of this process is having a detailed business plan that outlines all operational issues of the facility. A full understanding of the contemplated uses is essential. In land use terms, a use can be best described as the economic activity permitted in the zoning district. Sticking to our theme, as applied to a typical craft operation, “uses” may include activities such as “manufacturing” and “retail” operations, as examples.

  With the above in mind, many counties and cities are delineated into zoning districts. A zoning district, in simplified terms, is a local subdivision of a municipality where certain activities or uses are permitted within the subdivision, and by extension, some activities or uses may be precluded. Staying with the craft production analysis, some zoning districts may permit manufacturing uses and not retail, while in others, retail may be permitted but not manufacturing and, in some districts, neither may be permitted at all. By now, the prospective manufacturer should realize that aligning all desired operational uses with the zoning district is essential before build-out. Imagine investing significantly in a wine production facility where the contemplated revenue stream is to come from tasting room sampling and sales, only to discover late in the build-out process that the retail sales of alcohol are not permitted within the zoning district. Someone is about to lose their job!

  Other considerations that the readers are likely familiar with, as applied to alcohol, are distance requirements. Virtually every municipality and the zoning district within has distance separation requirements from alcohol businesses and certain other types of venues such as schools, religious establishments, and other alcohol beverage licensees. Being aware of these requirements is mandatory prior to commencing any construction on a sort of alcohol facility. As stated, lack of knowledge of the foregoing will lead to problems.

Available Remedies to Certain Land Use Problems

  In certain instances, contemplated producer operational uses are not permitted by right. That is to say, and using this as one example, the retail sales of alcohol from a tasting room may not be automatically permitted in a zoning district. However, certain administrative procedures may be available to the producer that will allow for specific uses within the zoning district only after process and approval.

  These exceptions generally take the form of conditional use permits or special exceptions. These administrative remedies may be available depending on local ordinances. These exceptions usually require an extensive application process and public hearings before zoning boards and city commissions where the public generally can attend and offer support, or criticism and objection, to a desired operation. These procedures are quasi-judicial in nature, where arguments are heard and made by the producer and the producer’s counsel to board members and the commission. As noted, the commission may approve the proposed operation and issue a conditional use permit. As the name suggests, these permits come with conditions affixed that must be complied with. If they are not, the holder then risks cancellation of the permit. Negotiating conditions is an integral part of the process between the local government and the producer. Clearly, the goal is to not include conditions that adversely affect operational objectives. It is worth noting that these are quasi-judicial proceedings. Records of the proceedings are established, and should the commission deny the issuance of a permit for a stated and unsubstantiated reason, the applicant has the ability to take the matter to state court and appeal the decision.

  Other remedies to zoning restrictions include perhaps the familiar “variance.” Back to our craft operation… imagine that you’ve located the perfect wine-making facility. All the stainless steel tanks fit nicely in the plant space, the layout allows for the contemplated bottling line, and just by chance, there’s a perfect space that can be the dedicated tasting room. The only problem is that the Church of the Sacred (pick your deity), is within 100 feet of the tasting room and as such, retail sales of alcohol are not ordinarily permitted. Well, if available, a variance could be the solution. In essence, a variance is a request to deviate from the specific zoning requirements within the zoning district. The process generally includes public notice and hearing but is a potential solution to all sorts of distance separation requirements.

  The above is merely a basic primer on zoning and land use issues that may affect wine, spirits, and beer production and sales issues. Municipal matters and zoning issues are complex areas of alcohol beverage law that are often overlooked by producers of beverage alcohol. In the contemporary production environment, particularly in the craft area with its complex and mixed-use environment, a producer would be well served by doing their land use homework or working with experienced counsel prior to groundbreaking. After all, the goal is to sell the drink produced, not to drink it to numb the pain of poor land use planning.

New Grapevine Crop Insurance Coverage Now Available

stormy dark skies over a vineyard

By: Trevor Troyer – Vice President at Agricultural Risk Management, LLC

The USDA Risk Management Agency has just released the new Grapevine crop insurance plan.  This has been something that vineyard owners across the US have wanted for years.  Coverage is now available starting for the 2024 crop year. The sign-up deadline is November 1st in all states where it is available.

  The states where you can obtain this new coverage are: California, Idaho, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.  It is not available in all counties though.  The counties that are listed in the actuarial documents are not the same as the Grape crop insurance program.  This new program is available for grafted grapevines only in 91 counties.

  What is covered with this new insurance product?  The Causes of Loss that are listed in the Grapevine Crop Provisions are below:

      11. Causes of Loss

      (a) In accordance with the provisions of section 12 of the Basic Provisions, insurance is provided only against the following causes of loss that occur within the insurance period:

(1) Freeze;

(2) Hail;

(3) Flood;

(4) Fire, unless weeds and other forms of undergrowth have not been controlled or pruning debris has not been removed from the vineyard;

(5) Insects, diseases, and other pathogens if allowed in the Special Provisions; and

(6) Failure of the irrigation water supply if caused by an unavoidable, naturally occurring event that occurs during the insurance period.

      (b) In addition to the causes of loss excluded in section 12 of the Basic Provisions, we will not insure against damage other than actual damage to the vine from an insurable cause specified in this section

  The vine needs to be completely destroyed, or is damaged to the extent that it will not recover in the 12-month insurance period from November 30th.

  Any damage other than damage to the grapevine from an insured cause is not covered.  For example, chemical drift, terrorism etc. are not covered.  Failure to follow good farming practices or the breakdown of irrigation equipment are also not covered.

  For the grapevines to be insurable they must be adapted to the area they are being grown in.  They must be being grown and sold for fruit, wine or juice for human consumption.  The vines must be grafted to be insurable as well.  The Crop Year begins December 1 and extends through to November 30 of the following year. You must have a minimum of 600 vines per acre to be insurable also.

  Vines are classified into 3 stages of growth for the policy.  Here are the exact definitions:

      (a) Stage I, from when the vines are set out through 12 months after set out;

      (b) Stage II, vines that are 13 through 48 months old after set out; and

      (c) Stage III, vines that are more than 48 months old after set out.

  Values are determined by the Stage (age) of the vine and the county they are located in.  Obviously Stage III vines are worth more than Stage I vines.  These prices are set by the USDA Risk Management Agency.

  Vines are insured in four different categories; Group A, Group B, Group C and Group D.  Without listing all the varieties in each group, which would take up a lot of space, suffice to say that any variety can be insured.  Group A for example has Concord, Niagra and other natives and some hybrids.  Group B has mostly hybrids such as Chardonnel, Diamond, Elvira, Vidal Blanc but does have some Vitis vinifera like Reisling.  Group C has the most European grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gamay and others but does have hybrids as well.  The catch all is Group D which has “All Other Varieties”.  You can select a different coverage level for each Group.  You could have 60% coverage on your Group A and 75% coverage on your Group C vines. Depending on which vines you think are more at risk.   If you choose Catastrophic Risk Protection (CAT) level for any vine type then CAT will be applicable for all of your insured vines in that county.

  You can choose coverage levels for your Grapevine insurance from CAT (Catastrophic) to 75%.  CAT insurance is 50% coverage but you only get 55% of that 50% value per vine. Coverage increments are 5%, so you have 50%, 55%, 60%, 65%, 70% and 75%.   There is a sort of a double deductible with Grapevine insurance.  You have a damage deductible and a value/price deductible.  For example, if you choose 75% coverage you would have a 25% damage deductible.  That means that the first 25% of damage is not payable.  So, if you had 30% of your vines killed because of a freeze you would have a payable claim of 5% (30% minus 25% deductible).  There is also a value deductible as well. Again, if you have 75% coverage you would have a grapevine value deductible of 25%. For example, if the grapevine is Stage III in California in Napa County it would be worth $39.  At the 75% coverage level the dollar amount for that vine would be $29.25.

  There is an optional endorsement that changes the damage deductible.  This endorsement does cost a little more but is worth it, in my opinion.  This is called the Occurrence Loss Option or OLO for short.  It changes the damage deductible to a 5% damage trigger.  If your loss is 5% or more of the total value of the vines in a unit you would have a payable loss.  Plus, you are paid on the full value percentage of the loss.  So, if you had a 30% loss, you would get paid on the full 30%.  This does not change the value percentage of the coverage level, if you choose 50% you get that amount.  You cannot exceed the total insured value, Liability, of the vines in any case. 

  OLO has been available for other types of insurance like citrus trees, avocado trees etc.  To keep premiums down growers often elect lower coverage levels with OLO.  That way you are likely to get a claim paid but the premium is not too high, you just get a little less per vine.

  Once you sign up and complete all the forms with your agent, they are then submitted to the underwriter.  The underwriter will open an inspection and an adjuster will come and take a look at your vineyard.  The adjuster will determine if the grapevines in your vineyard are insurable.  The vines could be uninsurable for any of the following reasons.  The vines are unsound, diseased or in someway unhealthy.  They could have been grafted within a 12-month period before the beginning of the insurance period. Or they could have been damaged prior to the beginning of the insurance period.  Once the adjuster has completed the inspection, it is sent to the underwriter and then on to the USDA Risk Management Agency for final approval. 

  If you have damage from an insured Cause of Loss, you should contact your agent to get a claim opened.  It is always best to get a claim opened up sooner rather than later.  48 – 72 hours after discovering damage is best.  I know that a lot of growers want to wait and see how much damage there is before they do anything.  It is always better to get a claim opened up rather than wait and see.  If there is not enough damage then you just let the adjuster know.  After you open up a claim an adjuster should be out within 10 days to inspect the vineyard.  Do not remove any damaged vines until it has been inspected!

  This is a good program, and it will provide protection to vineyards that need to mitigate losses from Freeze, Hail, Flood, Fire etc.  But you will have to determine, with your agent, whether or not it is a good fit for your vineyard.  Some growers and locations have less risk than others.  While some areas are constantly pummeled by the elements and other factors.

Uncorking Accessibility

Ensuring Your Website Complies with the ADA

PICTURE OF KEYBOARD SHOWING ADA ICONS IN BLUE

 By: Vanessa Ing, Farella Braun + Martel

In today’s digital age, having an online presence is crucial for businesses, including wineries, breweries, and other beverage companies. Accordingly, it’s essential to ensure that your beverage website meets federal standards for accessibility to avoid lawsuits and fines. In this article, we will help beverage companies understand how to comply with federal law and implement accessible features on their websites.

Why is Web Accessibility Important?

  In 1990, Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It prohibits businesses open to the public (otherwise known as “public accommodations”) from discriminating against people with disabilities in everyday activities. These everyday activities can include purchasing goods and services, or offering employment opportunities. 

  In March 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice issued web accessibility guidance, reiterating that ensuring web accessibility for people with disabilities is a priority for the Department. Relying on the ADA’s prohibition against discrimination and its mandate to provide equal access, Department of Justice emphasized that the ADA’s requirements apply to all the goods, services, privileges, or activities offered by public accommodations, including those offered on the web. The Department of Justice’s guidance was particularly timely given that many services moved online during the pandemic. 

  In its guidance, the Department of Justice explained that people with disabilities navigate the web in different ways: for example, those with visual impairments might require a screen reader that reads aloud text to the audience.  Those with auditory impairments might require closed-captioning software, while those with impaired motor skills might require voice recognition software.  A website, therefore, should be compatible with the full range of such software. 

Is Your Beverage Company a “Public Accommodation” Business?

  Public accommodations include businesses that sell goods and services, establishments serving food and drink, and places of recreation or public gathering.  Companies that sell drinks, wineries that offer a tasting room, or breweries that host events are all considered public accommodations.  Thus, those businesses’ websites must comply with the ADA by being accessible to people with disabilities. 

  It is an open question whether beverage companies without a physical location open to the public must still have ADA-compliant websites. Some jurisdictions, like the Ninth Circuit (which has jurisdiction over Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington), have tied the necessity of ADA-compliant websites to the existence of a brick-and-mortar location (Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC). However, the Department of Justice, along with several federal circuit courts of appeals, has taken the position that even a public accommodation business without a physical location must have an ADA-compliant website. 

  Given the increased prevalence of online-only services open to the public, it is very likely that litigation over the next few years may resolve this open question.  In the meantime, it is wise for beverage companies to take preventative caution and ensure that their websites are accessible. 

What are some Website Accessibility Barriers?

  To ensure ADA compliance, beverage companies must be aware of common website accessibility barriers.  These include poor color contrast, lack of descriptive text on images and videos, mouse-only navigation, and more.  By addressing these barriers, beverage companies can enhance the user experience for people with disabilities.

  Six examples of website accessibility barriers highlighted in the DOJ’s accessibility guidance include:

Poor Color Contrast: Ensure sufficient color contrast between text and background to aid individuals with visual impairments or color blindness. Use color combinations that are easy to distinguish.

Use of Color Alone to Give Information:  Avoid using color alone to provide information.  Using color alone can be very disorienting for someone who is visually impaired or colorblind.  Someone who is colorblind might not be able to distinguish between shades of gray.  One solution might be to ensure that symbols conveying information are differently shaped.    

Lack of Descriptive Alternative Text for Images and Videos: Provide descriptive text (alt text) for images and videos, allowing screen readers to convey the information to visually impaired users. This makes your content more accessible and inclusive.

No Closed Captions on Videos: Include closed captions for videos to accommodate individuals with hearing impairments. Utilize manual or automatic captioning options and review the captions for accuracy.  Free options are available on the web.

Inaccessible Online Forms: Make online forms user-friendly for people with disabilities. Provide clear instructions before the form, ensure that a screen reader could recognize required fields and fields with special formatting, ensure keyboard-only navigation, use accessible labels for inputs, and display clear error messages.  Note that an image-based CAPTCHA is not a fully accessible way to secure your form; your CAPTCHA should offer users who are visually impaired an audio alternative.

Mouse-Only Navigation: Enable keyboard-only navigation on your website to assist individuals with motor skill impairments or those who cannot use a mouse or see a mouse pointer on the screen.  Make sure all interactive elements can be accessed using the tab, enter, spacebar, or arrow keys.  Use a “Skip to Main Content” link to ensure that users employing only a keyboard can easily navigate the website’s primary content. 

  To implement these features, beverage companies should discuss accessibility concerns upfront with the web developer.  Beverage companies should keep in mind that posting a phone number on a website to call for assistance, as commonly utilized by businesses, does not sufficiently provide equal access to the website and the services or goods provided.

Who can Sue Beverage Companies?

  Non-compliance with ADA standards can lead to potential lawsuits.  Although some courts have held that a nexus must exist between a private plaintiff’s disability and the web accessibility barrier claimed, a private plaintiff may easily surf the web for websites that are inaccessible.  A private plaintiff may then file a lawsuit in federal court without first notifying the business.  Further, liability under the ADA is strict, which means that the intent of the business to comply is immaterial.  Thus, it is prudent for beverage companies to proactively address accessibility issues to avoid potential legal troubles. 

  Private lawsuits under the ADA can result in injunctive relief (a court order to comply with the ADA) and attorney fees.  And in some states, like California, the state law version of the ADA may enable plaintiffs to demand monetary damages ($4,000 per violation of the ADA). 

  Government involvement, while less frequent, is possible in cases involving national retailers.  If the Department of Justice observes a pattern or practice of discrimination, the Department will attempt to negotiate a settlement, and may bring suit on behalf of the United States. At stake are fines of up to $75,000 for the first ADA violation, and up to $150,000 for each subsequent violation.

What are the Rules for Website Accessibility?

  Although the ADA itself does not spell out the rules for website accessibility, several sources provide detailed rules that can aid beverage companies in building accessible websites. 

  First, the ADA authorizes the Department of Justice to enforce the statute.  Accordingly, the Department develops and issues regulations explaining how businesses must comply.  Specifically, § 36.303 of the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations specifies that a public accommodation shall provide auxiliary aids and services when necessary to ensure effective communication with people with disabilities, and that a public accommodation should consult with people with disabilities whenever possible.  The Department also issues administrative guidance, such as its March 2022 guidance described above.  

  Second, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities, provides detailed guidance concerning the display screen ratios, status indicators, audio signals, and other accessibility features. 

  Third, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1), which were originally designed by a consortium of four universities, provide highly specific web accessibility guidelines grounded on the idea that information on the web must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.  These guidelines are widely referenced in court cases and settlements with the Department of Justice, as the guidelines address numerous aspects of web accessibility and offer three different levels of conformance (A, AA, AAA). Beverage companies can consult the WCAG 2.1 guidelines (including a customizable quick reference guide, at https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG21/quickref/) to ensure their websites meet ADA compliance. 

Looking Ahead

  Web accessibility standards evolve over time, with updates being released periodically. Beverage companies should stay informed about changes and updates to ADA compliance regulations. For example, the WCAG 3.0 is scheduled for release in the latter half of 2023, further refining accessibility guidelines.

  In sum, by understanding and identifying web accessibility barriers, and implementing necessary accessibility features, beverage companies can enhance user experiences and minimize the risk of legal repercussions. Embracing web accessibility is not only legally required but economically prudent in the long run, as it enables beverage companies to cater to a broad and varied audience, and demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity in the digital realm.

  Vanessa Ing is a litigation associate with Farella Braun + Martel and can be reached at ving@fbm.com. Farella is a Northern California law firm representing corporate and private clients in sophisticated business and real estate transactions and complex commercial, civil and criminal litigation. The firm is headquartered in San Francisco with an office in the Napa Valley that is focused on the wine industry.

What is Grape Crop Insurance & How Does it Work  

harvest knocked down by fence

By: Trevor Troyer – Vice President at Agricultural Risk Management, LLC

Grape crop insurance is a federally subsidized program that is administered by the USDA Risk Management Agency.  Policies are sold by independent agents and agencies throughout the country.  There are thirteen approved insurance providers (insurance companies) that work with the USDA RMA. 

  Grape crop insurance is an Actual Production History (APH) policy.  This means that it uses a vineyard’s historical production to determine how much is covered.  You are covering an average of your tons per acre per variety.  Since crop insurance is partially subsidized, the insurable varieties, prices per ton, premiums are all set by the USDA.  This also means that there is no cost difference from one insurance company to the next.  If anyone represents that they can get you a lower premium for the same coverage, it is false.  It is true that some agents and agencies are more knowledgeable with grape crop insurance. How your policy is set up and with what endorsements you have does make a difference.

  Per the Grape Crop Provisions grape crop insurance covers you for the following:

10. Causes of Loss.

(a) In accordance with the provisions of section 12 of the Basic Provisions, insurance is provided only against the following causes of loss that occur during the insurance period:

      (1) Adverse weather conditions;

      (2) Fire, unless weeds and other forms of undergrowth have not been controlled or pruning debris has not been removed from the vineyard;

      (3) Insects, except as excluded in 10(b)(1), but not damage due to insufficient or improper application of pest control measures;

      (4) Plant disease, but not damage due to insufficient or improper application of disease control measures;

      (5) Wildlife;

      (6) Earthquake;

      (7) Volcanic eruption; or

      (8) Failure of irrigation water supply, if caused by an insured peril that occurs during the insurance period.

(b) In addition to the causes of loss excluded in section 12 (Causes of Loss) of the Basic Provisions, we will not insure against damage or loss of production due to:

      (1) Phylloxera, regardless of cause; or

      (2) Inability to market the grapes for any reason other than actual physical damage from an insurable cause specified in this section. For example, we will not pay you an indemnity if you are unable to market due to quarantine, boycott, or refusal of any person to accept production.

  An agent will work with you to set up individual databases for each of your varieties.  If you have vineyards in different locations, it can sometimes be beneficial to set them up separately.  This can be good when you have a claim.  You might have a loss in one location but not in another.  You don’t want your production from different locations co-mingled, as you might not have enough of a loss to trigger a claim payment.

  The databases can go back 10 years, if your vineyard has been in production that long.  Minimally 4 years is needed to set up an APH policy’s database.  If the vines have just become insurable a Transitional Yield (T-Yield), based on the county and variety, can be used to fill in up to three years.  If you have purchased a vineyard that has been in production, you can transfer the production history.  You must have records or some way to prove the vineyard’s history though.  The database can only be set up as far back as you have production records to prove your tonnage.  Production records are not required at the time you sign up for crop insurance or at production or acreage reporting times.  But they may be required at the time of a claim.  It sometimes comes up that an insurance company may need to do a review and production records are needed.  So, it is good thing to keep them on hand.

  Here’s what the 2024 Crop Insurance Handbook (CIH) from the USDA says grape about production records:

1950 Grapes

A. Supporting Records

Settlement sheets, sales receipts, machine harvest records, certified scale records, pick records and final or year-end statements from a winery, cannery or processor must indicate net paid tons of Grapes delivered by variety. Converting gallons of wine to tons of grapes does not qualify as acceptable records.

  The CIH then goes into more detail about records and what needs to be on them.  Your agent can provide you this information as needed.

  What about insurability of the grapes?  Vines need to be in their 4th growing season for the grapes to be insurable.  A minimum of 4 years is needed to do the average, if the grapes have just become insurable then a T-Yield, as mentioned earlier, is used in place of any missing years.  Usually, the third growing season after being grafted is considered insurable.  The vines must have produced an average of at least 2 tons per acre, in at least one of the preceding three crop years.  There can be exceptions to this rule, though.  Sometimes there are other requirements located in the Special Provisions for a certain county.  In California the USDA Davis Regional Office puts out Informational Memorandums that lay out specific requirements for the State of California.  These differ from other growing regions in the United States.

  Grape crop insurance is available in the following states; Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington.  Grape crop insurance is not available in every county.  For a list of insurable counties, you can look at the RMA’s website at rma.usda.gov or contact your agent. 

 Insurable grape varieties are also different between states and counties.  The varieties are usually set by what has been being grown in that county or the climate of a particular state or county.  Even though there are differences between AVAs in a certain state/county, the insurability, prices, and premiums are all set by county not AVA.  Most of the time if a particular variety is not listed for a county it can be insured.  There are Types/Practices in the actuarial documents for each county that list out specific varieties and also make allowances for others. For example you might look up Hood River County in Washington State.  It lists; Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Grenache, Cabernet Franc and so on.  There is also listed “Other White Varieties” and “Other Red/Pink Varieties”, so if you have a grape variety that is not listed under it’s own name you can insure them under one of these categories.

  You can not cover 100% of your average production per variety.  You can choose coverage levels from 50% to 85% of your average.  Because of this, there is a sort of built in production deductible.  Coverage levels are in 5% increments.  The coverage level is relative to the premium, the lower the coverage level the lower the premium will be.  Obviously with higher coverage levels claims are more likely to be paid out; therefore the premium will be higher. What the correct coverage level for your needs is something your crop insurance agent can help you with.  Risks are different between states and counties. 

  Grape crop insurance is a valuable tool to mitigate risk for a vineyard. 

For More information please contact

Agricultural Risk Management, LLC

Toll Free: (888) 319-1627

Email: ttroyer@agriskmgmt.com

Or visit our website.

www.agriskmgmt.com

Should I Open Up a Claim?

close-up of a plant crop

By: Trevor Troyer, Agricultural Risk Management

When to open up a claim on your grape crop insurance is important.  A lot of growers say that don’t know if they have a payable loss early in the season.  With grape crop insurance you are covering an average of your production per grape variety. Depending on what coverage level you have chosen this could mean you have a large deductible or small one.  I agree it is hard to tell how much early season damage will affect tons harvested.

  Mid May this year there was a bad freeze/frost event in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  While late spring frosts are not uncommon, this one was really bad.  There was widespread damage to grape vines across the Finger Lakes.   The extent of the damage is not fully known at this time.  But there will be a reduction in the tons harvested this year for sure.

  In a situation like the above a claim should be opened immediately.  More than likely, due to the severity of the frost, an adjuster will come out and inspect the vineyard.  I always tell growers that they should take pictures of the frost damage that morning.  It is always good to document damage as close to the time it occurred as possible.

  It may be that some varieties of grapes show more damage than others.  This is to be expected as some are more resistant to cold.  And from what I have seen over the years with frost and freezes is that it doesn’t affect a vineyard or field evenly.  You might have more damage on one side of the vineyard or more damage on the lowest part of the blocks etc.  Damage varies but just because one variety or one area looks better than others doesn’t mean that you should not open a claim on that variety or block.

  I know that secondary and tertiary buds will emerge in the next few days or weeks after a freeze.  You should open up a claim now regardless.  The damage may be less than you think and you don’t end up having a payable claim.  But it is still best to get one opened up right away.  Don’t wait to see how many tons you harvest before opening a claim! 

  Here is an excerpt from the “How to File a Crop Insurance Claim” Fact Sheet from the USDA:

  Most policies state that you (the insured) should notify your agent within 72 hours of discovery of crop damage.  As a practical matter, you should always contact your agent immediately when you discover crop damage.

  That same night in May, that saw the frost/freeze in the Finger Lakes region, also saw damage to vineyards along the coast of Lake Erie.  I received calls and emails from growers stating that they had had frost as well.  Obviously, the damage was not as bad as the Finger Lakes, but frost on new buds is not something any vineyard owner wants to see.  I opened claims for all of them even though the extent of the damage was not known.

  I cannot stress enough the importance of opening up a claim early. 

  A lot of claims with grapes are relatively routine.  Once the claim is opened an adjuster will come out and document the damage.  You will continue to grow your crop and try to mitigate any damage received. Once you harvest grapes you will meet with the adjuster and give him your production records that show your tonnage per variety.  He will then adjust the claim based your guarantee (average tons per acre per variety and the price for that variety in the county.)

  In some circumstances you will need to get direction from the adjuster before doing anything.

What are your responsibilities after damage if the grapes have not matured properly and will not?  What if they have been rendered unusable (smoke-taint has been a major cause of this in California)? 

  Here is a section from the Grape Crop Provisions that goes over this:

11. Duties in the Event of Damage or Loss.

In addition to the requirements of section 14 of the Basic Provisions, the following will apply:

(a) You must notify us within 3 days of the date harvest should have started if the crop will not be harvested.

(b) If the crop has been damaged during the growing season and you previously gave notice in accordance with section 14 of the Basic Provisions, you must also provide notice at least 15 days prior to the beginning of harvest if you intend to claim an indemnity as a result of the damage previously reported. You must not destroy the damaged crop that is marketed in normal commercial channels, until after we have given you written consent to do so. If you fail to meet the requirements of this section, all such production will be considered undamaged and included as production to count.

  It is important to stay in contact with your adjuster during a claim.

  A lot of things can happen to your vines that could cause them not to produce a full crop.  The insurance period is long and it is important to report everything that may reduce your crop.

  When you sign up for crop insurance, coverage for grapes starts on February 1 in Arizona and California.  It begins on November 21 in all other states.  The end of insurance unless it is otherwise specified by the USDA RMA, is October 10th in Mississippi and Texas, November 10 in Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.  In all other states the end of insurance is November 20th.  Crop insurance is continuously in force, once signed up for, unless cancelled or terminated.  Your coverage for following years, will be the day after the end of the insurance period for the prior year.

Here are the Causes of Loss per the Grape crop provisions:

(1)   Adverse weather conditions;

(2)   Fire, unless weeds and other forms of undergrowth have not been controlled or pruning

       debris has not been removed from the vineyard;

(3)   Insects, except as excluded in 10(b)(1), but not damage due to insufficient or improper

       application of pest control measures;

(4)   Plant disease, but not damage due to insufficient or improper application of disease control

       measures;

(5)   Wildlife;

(6)   Earthquake;

(7)   Volcanic eruption; or

(8)   Failure of irrigation water supply, if caused by an insured peril that occurs during the

       insurance period.

  Adverse weather conditions could be anything that could cause damage to your grapes. For

example; drought, frost, freeze, excess moisture etc. Wildlife could be bird damage, deer etc.

Fire would also include smoke taint as that is a result of a fire.

  Crop insurance does not cover, the inability to sell your grapes because of a buyer’s refusal or contract breakage. It also doesn’t cover losses from boycotts or pandemics. Phylloxera is not covered, regardless of the cause. Overspray or chemical damage from a neighboring farm is not covered either.

  So, get those claims opened up early and stay in contact with your agent and adjuster.

Permit-Required Confined Spaces

Occupation Safety and Health Act

By: Steven R. Sawyer, ARM, MS, CSP

As many employers have learned over the last few years, employees are a valuable resource.  The ability to find and keep employees has become a challenge for many employers in a variety of industries, including food and beverage agriculture.  Therefore, keeping employees safe is a top priority.

  Employers in the food and beverage agriculture industry, like vineyards and wineries, may have multiple confined spaces in which employees encounter in their daily job tasks.  These include vats, tanks, storage bins, tunnels, duct work, pits, drain systems, and liquid tanks and containers.  Many industry employees are required to enter these spaces as part of their jobs.

  Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in their Permit-Required Confined Spaces standard 29 CFR 1910.146, describes a confined space as a space that is large enough for an employee to bodily enter and perform assigned work tasks, has a limited or restricted means of entry or exit, and is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.  Additionally, OSHA defines a Permit-Required Confined Space as a confined space with one or more of the following characteristics:  the confined space contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere; the confined space contains a material that has the potential for engulfing the entrant; the confined space has an internal configuration with inwardly converging walls or a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross section which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant; and contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard. (OSHA.gov)

  The first step in protecting employees from the hazards of confined spaces is to evaluate the workplace to determine if the workplace contains permit-required confined spaces.  An initial survey or workplace evaluation should be conducted to locate and identify all confined spaces.  This initial workplace evaluation should be conducted by a qualified person who is familiar with the hazards and types of confined spaces.  Although this is the initial step, workplace evaluation must be ongoing for confined spaces which may change over time with the addition of new processes, equipment, or facilities.

  Once a confined space is identified in the workplace, the confined space should be treated as a hazardous area until a qualified person can determine the specific hazards.  Additionally, the qualified person will determine if the confined space is a permit-required confined space or a non-permit confined space.  Hazards an evaluator will look for include atmospheric hazards such as oxygen deficient or toxic atmosphere, biological hazards, mechanical hazards, physical hazards, and chemical hazards.

  If the qualified person has found permit-required confined spaces at the workplace, the employer must notify the employees.  Employees must know their workplace contains permit-required confined spaces, where the spaces are located and the hazards associated with those spaces.  Then, the employer must post signage to inform the employees of the permit spaces.  This signage can read “Danger – Permit-Required Confined Space, Do Not Enter” or a similar statement.  The signs should be posted on the entrance or in close proximity to the entrance of the permit space.

  At this point, an employer has a decision to make about their Permit-Required Confined Spaces:  either allow employees to enter or do not allow employees to enter.  If the employer makes a decision to not allow employees to enter permit spaces, then the employer should take effective measures to secure the spaces.  Some examples of securing permit spaces to prevent entry are padlocks, bolts, chains, and wire cables.

  If entry is necessary for employees to service or clean permit-required confined spaces, the employer must develop and implement a written permit-required confined space program and make the program available for employee inspection.  This written program should include written entry procedures for the permit-required confined spaces along with the hazards present, and how to eliminate or control the hazards. 

  The written permit-required confined space program should include an entry permit.  The entry permit is a document to be used for all permit-required confined space entries.  The entry permit should include the date of entry and authorized duration of the entry, the location of the entry, the names of all entrants, and the work that is being conducted in the confined space.  Additionally, the permit must include the names of attendants, the name of the entry supervisor, the hazards present in the space to be entered, how the hazards will be eliminated or controlled before entry, acceptable entry conditions, results of initial and periodic tests performed along with the names of the testers and when tests were performed, rescue and emergency services to contact in the event of an emergency, communication procedures between the entrant and the attendant, equipment necessary including personal protective equipment, testing equipment, communication equipment, alarm systems, and rescue equipment, other information deemed necessary for safe entry, and any additional permits such as hot work permits.  Lastly, the permit should have a signature line for the entry supervisor to authorize the entry, including the date and time of the entry.  The entry supervisor should communicate the contents of the entry permit to the authorized entry personnel and may wish to post the entry permit in a designated location.

  OSHA requires that employers provide training for all employees who must work in permit-required confined spaces.  The training should occur before the initial work assignment, when job duties change, employee performance deficiencies occur, or when the permit-required confined space program changes or operations change.  Although it is not required to train all employees to the extent of the authorized entrants training, it is a best practice to inform all employees of the confined spaces present in the workplace and the hazards that accompany the confined spaces.  

  If entry is required in a permit-required confined space, the employer must provide an authorized entrant (the person who enters the space and conducts maintenance or cleaning operations), an attendant (a person who remains outside of the confined space), and an entry supervisor (the person who oversees the entry operations and ensures the entrants follow the permit and are safe).  These personnel have specific duties that must occur to ensure safe entry into permit spaces.  Their duties must be followed in order to comply with the OSHA Permit-Required Confined Spaces standard.

  When the entry into the permit space is complete, the entry supervisor terminates the confined space entry.  The entry supervisor can also cancel the entry of the confined space if the conditions within the space are no longer safe for the entrant.  As a best practice, when the entry is complete, a debrief should be conducted with the entry personnel to determine if any changes are needed for future entry procedures.  Employers are required to keep canceled entry permits for one year.  Any deviations or problems with the entry should be noted on the canceled permits.

  Even with a permit-required confined space program in place, emergencies can happen.  It is important that local emergency responders are aware of the specific hazards associated with confined spaces in the workplace.  Invite local emergency agencies to the workplace and evaluate their knowledge of confined space rescue, their rescue equipment, and their capabilities. 

  Having a permit-required confined space program in place will help vineyards and wineries avoid catastrophic incidents and costly OSHA citations.  To learn more about Permit-Required Confined Spaces, go to osha.gov or ansi.org.

  Steven R. Sawyer, ARM, MS, CSP, is the owner/operator of LSW & Associates Safety Consulting Services, LLC.  Sawyer has been active in the safety industry since 1999, much of that time working with multi-faceted, high-hazard agribusinesses, developing a special expertise in grain bin engulfment and prevention; OSHA grain handling standards; lockout/tagout (LOTO); machine guarding; confined spaces; heavy equipment and specialized equipment operations; and safety program development and training.

Website:  sawyersafetysolutions.com

New Grapevine Insurance Program

By: Trevor Troyer

Grape crop insurance has been available for many years now.  You can protect an average of your historical tonnage per variety.   But there has not been an insurance program for grape vines.   There are subsidized insurance programs for apple trees, orange trees, avocado trees, mango trees etc. through the USDA Risk Management Agency.  But there has not been anything for vineyards, until now.

  AgriLogic Consulting, LLC is consulting company that develops crop insurance products for the USDA.  They do feasibility studies and evaluations of existing and potential programs.  AgriLogic Consulting, LLC has been working on a Grapevine insurance program.

  Here is what was just released on the AgriLogic website, agrilogicconsulting.com

  The Grapevine Insurance Program has been approved by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation for implementation in the following states: California, Idaho, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. Insurance industry representatives in key production regions requested a product to protect producers against perils that can destroy vines. The list of perils to be included are freeze, hail, flood, fire, and failure of the irrigation water supply (if caused by an unavoidable naturally occurring event during the insurance period). Claims will be limited to loss due to complete destruction or death of the vine. Losses for partial damage are not included under the program. While both programs are federally subsidized and administered by the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA), the vine replacement program is different and separate from the existing Grape and Table Grape Crop Insurance Programs, which cover losses related to the production of the fruit itself. Producers will be able to purchase the vine insurance program through existing crop insurance agents once the program becomes available.

  I don’t have to tell you that this is a big deal.  I know vineyards that have wanted this for years and nothing has been available.  I have seen vineyards devasted by fire in California and Oregon in recent years. I have seen damage from early freezes in Pennsylvania and New York.  This program will give growers much needed protection for their vines.

  The policy documents are set to be released to the approved insurance providers by no later than August 31, 2023.  The sign-up deadline for the new Grapevine Insurance program will be November 1st, 2023.  Availability maps should be released at the end of August as well.

  At this point we do not have any information than the above.  I look forward to helping vineyards get coverage for their vines.