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Long-Time Napa Valley Vintners and Growers Enthusiastically Support Measure C

By Andy Beckstoffer, Tom Clark, Randy Dunn, Beth Novak Milliken, Joyce Black Sears, and Warren Winiarski

Napa County is the wine-producing haven it is today because of forward-looking protections put in place by local leaders half a century ago. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Napa County’s Agricultural Preserve, which protects farming – including winemaking – as the highest and best use of most of the land on the valley floor, we feel a keen responsibility to protect this way of life for future generations. That’s why we and others have come together as the Growers/Vintners for Responsible Agriculture. We are all strong and enthusiastic supporters of Napa County’s Measure C, the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative.

People who work in Napa’s wine industry today may not realize how controversial the Agricultural Preserve was when it was adopted in 1968. Landowners fretted that private property rights were being eroded and that land values would plummet. Half a century later it’s clear that those fears were unfounded. Indeed, it is largely because of the Ag Preserve that Napa’s wine industry has flourished.

Measure C was designed to ensure ongoing farming success in the Ag Preserve by ensuring that water remains available from the Agricultural Watershed zoning district. The beautiful oak-studded hillsides that surround the Napa Valley are also a critical source of our agricultural and town water supplies. Every grape grower, vintner, and citizen knows that water is an essential need in grape growing, winemaking, and the community. From our perspective, enhancing protections on these Ag Watershed lands, which recharge the reservoirs and the groundwater aquifers, is vital to ensuring the ongoing viability of the Napa Valley community and wine industry.

We are not radical environmentalists. We’re pragmatists in an era of extended drought, higher temperatures and growing competition for limited water supplies – from farming, a growing local population, and a robust tourism industry.

Napa County voters established large minimum lot sizes (40 to 160 acres) in the Ag Watershed at the ballot box decades ago. These lots sizes remain untouched in Measure C, which means that claims of extensive housing development on the hillsides that surround the valley under this initiative are unfounded. To correct a few other misconceptions, existing vineyards in the Ag Watershed can be replanted as needed, new vineyards are allowed (approximately 5,000 acres are deemed plantable), and the oaks lost to the fires are not included in calculating the oak-removal limit.

The need to protect Napa County’s water supply from overuse is clear to many of us who grow grapes and make wine in the region. Indeed, one of the leading trade groups for wineries – Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) – invested significant time and financial resources into the drafting of the initiative language that is now known as Measure C. It’s only when a vocal sub-group of NVV members and other industry trade groups objected to the initiative that the NVV Board withdrew its support for the measure. Claims that Napa Valley farmers and vintners are united against Measure C are simply wrong.

As long-time Napa Valley residents, it’s disheartening to see Measure C’s opponents launch what can only be described as an underhanded, misleading campaign designed to confuse voters. The court forced opponents to change five statements on the ballot arguments they submitted to the county, and to pay $54,000 in legal fees, because they were objectively false and misleading. Basing an opposition campaign on lies and distortions is no way to maintain congenial, respectful relations with our neighbors.

Don’t be misled, opponents of Measure C are endangering our water supply.

Measure C will protect Napa’s water supplies now and into the future. We invite growers, winemakers and citizens alike to join us in VOTING YES ON MEASURE C.

The authors are all members of Growers/Vintners for Responsible Agriculture, a group that was formed in response to the decision by the Napa Valley Vintners to fund the opposition campaign to Napa County’s Measure C.

4 Comments on "Long-Time Napa Valley Vintners and Growers Enthusiastically Support Measure C"

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  1. Michele Snock says:

    Could not agree more. So sad how opponents to Measure C…profiteers and greedy corporations…are purposely trying to confuse people on their true intntions…making more money without any concern on the negative effect it will have on Napa Valley.

  2. Phil says:

    Michelle- Demonizing your opponents doesn’t solve problems. Rational conversations and analysis based on facts are more useful and productive.
    Ironically all these growers are established and most of their vineyards are on the valley floor. You want to recharge the valley floor aquifer from rain accumulated on the hills so you don’t have to change your farming practices. Why don’t you find a way to recharge the aquifer from within your properties?
    Besides, from what I read, there is no problem with the aquifer on the valley floor.
    It is always easier to try to have others do what you think is right, without you having to do it…
    I also bet that all the established vintners and growers will see an increase in value of their land as supply is held constant. Could that be part of their reason for supporting this measure?
    Right now you are putting the onus on private land owners on the hills. That has no cost to you so it is easy to be for it. How about you buy the properties that periodically come up for sale and then protect them for ever by not developing them? When you have no skin in the game it is terribly easy to make the decisions you are making.
    I’m curious to know if Beckstoffer applied the principles in the measure he supports in his extensive vineyards, on steep hills, in Lake County?
    You claim your opponents are misleading and lying and then you drop this sentence: Don’t be misled, opponents of Measure C are endangering our water supply. I read this as you trying to pull at the emotional strings of people, you are playing on their fear of lack of water. I find this really disingenuous.
    We really need to talk about this whole issue but rationally. Let’s take the time to have real hydrological study of our hills, and valley floor, to understand what is really happening. And let the analysis be done by a neutral third party that cannot be influence by either side of the conflict.
    Let’s please bring back some sanity to our social discourse and interactions. It is not about winning, it is about all moving forward together.

  3. This is a very misleading letter. I take issue with the fact that they claim that a “Vocal Minority” of NVV member wineries Oppose Measure C. Just today, it was reported that the top contributor to NO on C is the Napa Valley Vintners. Furthermore, at an informational meeting for NVV wineries earlier in 2018, only two hands out of the 200 plus wineries present in the meeting went up in favor of Measure C. The vast majority of membership wineries OPPOSE Measure C!

    https://napavalleyregister.com/news/local/donations-to-napa-s-heated-measure-c-campaigns-top/article_01b1f8c9-5377-54b1-b92b-222ce039e7ed.html

  4. What is obvious? The failure of the Napa County BOS is what we have and they are to blame! The elected officials must work for unity and have the backbone to to keep us working together. It is why we need not re-elect “Don” Diane Dillon, Brad Wagenknecht, Pedrosa, etc. They fail to recognized this civil war is because they DO NOT have the leadership. For this fact, the Ahmann cattlegate is the reality of Napa County as the case studty. 80 acres are salted due to the county staff not fixing the water gate. The Ahmann’s won he lawsuit. County counsel has charges $270,000+ for legal fees. Are we going to put trust in the County to administer Measure C?? The parties need to do the tough negotiation and we need to protect the oaks and hillsides. Don’t forget Henry Wigger who was the rock for the AgPreserve creation. Charge the whole think to the Halls from Texas who are to blame for wanting to cut 1000 acres!!! The NVVintners and NVGrowers live in a bubble, sending out pretty postcards when the money is needed to improve communitywide preparedness. My hope is for Cio Perez being elected and have the county government do the work.

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