Ag Alert Jan. 12, 2022

Lenders, nurseries provide advice on starting vineyards

Other speakers at the Wine and Grape IndustryForumincludedHonoreComfort, vice president of international marketing with The Wine Institute. She pointed to statistics that show the U.S. is first in wine consumption, third in imports, fourth in wineproduction, sixth invineyardacreage and seventh inwine exports. Comfort talked of steps being taken to boost wine exports, particularly out of California, which accounts for 95% of total U.S. wine exports. Bright spots among export markets for U.S. wine in- clude South Korea, Norway, Denmark,

Taiwan and Canada, she said. For would-be California winegrape growers and winemakers, Comfort tout- ed self-study and online courses and a California wine certification program available through TheWine Institute and Capstone California. The educational re- source includes contributions frommany Californiawineries, industryprofessionals and educators. Information is available at (Denni s Pol lock i s a repor t er in F r e s no . He ma y b e c on t a c t e d a t

ByDennis Pollock If you’re thinking of taking the leap by planting or replanting a vineyard, you’ll probablyneeda loan. Randy Dhindsa, the Tulare County- based regional vice president for credit operations forFarmCreditWest, said lend- ers will consider risk factors for vineyard project loans. He said bankers want to know where vineyards are being planted, the level of experience of the borrowers, the nature of “water support” for the property and the type of soil. Beyond that, he said, they want to know about growers’ abilities to service the debt, their cash flow, liquidity and risk perspective. “Give yourself 90 days,” Dhindsa said. “That will allow for an appraisal; it will al- lowforall thequestions, signingdocuments andattorneynegotiations.Somebanksmay do it quicker, somewill take longer.” Dhindsa was one of lending industry representatives who appeared recently at the Wine and Grape Industry Forum presented by the San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association in Fresno. The event also featurednurseryoperatorswho offered advice on soils, irrigation, root- stocks and vineyardmanagement. The nursery operators recommended planning to order needed vines early. “The sooner we know, the better,” said Matt McMillanwithWonderful Nurseries inWasco. “Planning ahead is in everybody’s best interest,”saidDustinHooperwithSunridge Nurseries inBakersfield. Hooper also discussed replant shock and the need for site analysis before start- inga vineyard.He recommendedgrowers visit nurseries toseehowtheyoperateand “see the effort that goes into your vines.” The nursery operators also provided an overviewonrootstock trials andsaidmore needs to be known about how rootstocks fare in a wide variety of soils, in different irrigationsettings andunder variousman- agement techniques. Justin JacksonwithCasaCristal Nursery in Delano said 1% is collected on the sale of each tree and vine to devote to re- search, amounting to between $800,000 and $900,000 for various proposals. The groups involved in research include the California Grape Rootstock Commission and the CaliforniaWinegrape Inspection AdvisoryBoard. In the lenders’ panel, Ryan Sturdevant, a Modesto-based Wells Fargo executive focusing on food and agribusiness, said borrowers seeking to redevelop dormant vineyards shouldprovideahistoryof vines grown in the past on the properties. Sturdevant said it is also important to know the soil profile and if water available is of good quality. Meanwhile,when it comes todetermin- ing collateral, Dhindsa said lenders look at facilities, chattel assets and real estate, “things we can use to derive value.” Walter Pierce, senior relationshipman-

ager at Bank of America, Merrill Lynch Commercial Banking in Fresno, said the valueof anewlyplantedvineyard relieson projected income and replacement costs. Sturdevant said it is good to have “fo- cused conversations” early with bankers to explore lending possibilities. “The best time to be asking for money is when you don’t need it,” he said.



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January 12, 2022 Ag Alert 9

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