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The federal government shutdown, which began Dec. 22, could soon affect a report that’s key to winegrape growers’ budgets, negotiations and contracts with wineries, said a spokesman for the California Association of Winegrape Growers.

Wineries submit grape purchase data to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service Pacific Region office, which compiles the data for the annual Crush Report.

Many purchase contracts between growers and wineries rely on reported prices to establish grape pricing the following year.

But the NASS staffers responsible for producing the report are on unpaid furlough until funding is restored, which makes timely publication of the Crush Report highly uncertain, the spokesman said.

Thursday was the deadline to submit information from the 2018 harvest for the Feb. 8 publication of the preliminary 2019 Crush Report and the March 8 publication of the final report.

“The Crush Report, which the industry pays for, provides essential financial information to California winegrape growers,” said Bill Berryhill, a Ceres-area grower and chairman of the California Association of Winegrape Growers board of directors.

“Lengthy delays in publishing the report threaten to complicate contract negotiations, interfere with lending activity and make it difficult for growers to budget for the year ahead,” he continued.

“We need our elected leaders in Washington, D.C., to quickly resolve this budget impasse and get programs like the Crush Report back up and running.”

In addition to NASS, many other USDA agencies critical to grape growers have been affected by the shutdown, Berryhill said.

Those include Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Agricultural Research Service, Farm Service Agency, Foreign Agricultural Service, Risk Management Agency, National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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This report was compiled by Mike Hodgson, associate editor for the Santa Maria Times. He can be reached at mhodgson@leecentralcoastnews.com.

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