VISION: By 2020 the Washington State wine industry triples its economic impact through improved profitability and sustainability for growers and wineries in the production of world-class wines.
MISSION: Cultivate a positive business environment to grow the Washington wine industry.
Prepare the industry to meet challenges of the future
Promote unity with opportunities for interaction to increase awareness and appreciation for our varied points of view
Provide a voice at both the state and federal level for grower and winery members
Push opportunities and resources that help growers and wineries make better informed decisions
Organized in 1983, the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers was designed to serve the needs of wine grape growers from the outset. The group was initially structured to act as a marketing cooperative but in 1996 was incorporated with the State of Washington as nonprofit association and continues to grow and thrive within that framework.
MEMBERS LIST PRIORITIES
Members help determine direction and prioritize activities. While relatively easy to identify needs by just asking an Association to "serve our needs as they arise", members are asked for specifics to help focus efforts and to provide real services. The most important service to the membership is the need for continuing education for a growing industry focused on premium quality. The members felt that they wanted more of what they've been getting: the annual meeting, the summer tours, the special subject seminars, the workshops. In short, education, education, education.
Education is closely followed by the notion that when in Washington, you promote quality in everything you do whether in educational seminars, industry tours or speakers but most certainly in producing wine grapes and wine. Other issues important to the group included communicating with the membership and the media, state and federal issues that affect wine grape growers, promoting Integrated Pest Management practices, working with affiliated organizations, expanding viticultural knowledge and increasing new technologies and their use.
POLITICALLY ACTIVE GROWERS
At the both the state and federal level the Association has seen the need to track issues that affect wine grape growers. Small associations often hire lobbyists to represent their interests when internal staffing and/or budgeting isn't sufficient to warrant full time employees handling governmental affairs. However, because a budget is small does not mean the issues are any less threatening. About ten percent of the membership dues income is allocated to issues.
The most demanding of issues at the state and federal levels for wine grape growers include: an adequate supply of labor, vital for perishable and labor intensive crops; a livable wage for minimum wage earners but a livable wage for farmers as well; excise taxes and the challenge of buying retail and selling wholesale; lowering estate taxes and helping to pass down the farm; research funding to adequately control pests, exotic pests and diseases; promoting research and registration of alternative pest management tools; promoting labeling to identify a wine as 100% Washington; communicating that growers are pro-farmer and pro-production agriculture rather than anti-salmon and to emphasize that the salmon issue is about control of water not about saving salmon; and, to discourage use of ag producers as bargaining chips for political benefit or motivation.
The Association is voluntary non-profit structure supported solely by membership dues and proceeds from an annual educational meeting and trade show held each February along with the advertising and sponsorship support of the allied associate members. Membership accounts for about half of the annual income to the Association.
A board of nine industry members set policy and direction for the association. These nine members are elected by their peers and each serve three year terms. There is representation from both the growing and winemaking community in addition to service providers and others key to the success of the wine grape industry.
With industry growth and consequently increased demands on the time of volunteers, the board hired an Executive Director on a part time basis. An Executive Director has formalized the Association's internal structure as well as freeing volunteers from the onerous tasks of management and administration of the day to day activities of the Association.