By TIM HEARDEN

Capital Press

The burgeoning wine industry in Western Washington will find it easier to access a grape insurance program that has been used by growers in California and elsewhere for many years.

The USDA's Risk Management Agency has announced it is making the Grape Multi-Peril Crop Insurance program more readily available to growers in seven counties in Western Washington for the 2010 crop year.

The government now recognizes Clark, Island, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, San Juan and Skagit counties in Washington as areas where winegrapes are considered prevalent, making the counties the latest among wine-producing areas around the country to be recognized for the program.

Without this recognition, accessing the benefit could take weeks longer and the grower would have to prove the crop is viable in his or her area, said Jo Lynne Seufer, a risk management specialist for the federal agency in Spokane, Wash.

"This is just going to make it easier," Seufer said.

The Puget Sound Winegrowers Association and Washington State University Extension helped push for expanded insurance protection in Western Washington.

The Risk Management Agency is offering a free webinar at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, with more information about the insurance program.

No pre-registration is required for the online seminar. The Web link http://breeze.wsu.edu/westgrape/ opens a screen that invites the visitor to "enter as a guest." Visitors are asked to log in a few minutes early for information about how to ask questions.

Grapes are among more than 76 crops nationwide for which coverage for weather- and pest-related losses is available through the Multi-Peril Crop Insurance program, in which partially subsidized policies are sold by private agents.

Coverage levels range from 50 to 75 percent of the actual production history for the farm, or up to 85 percent for some crops if indicated in actuarial documents for the county, according to the Risk Management Agency's Web site.

With winegrapes, the government has enhanced its offerings with several new provisions, including optional units by variety, separate price election and coverage levels and coverage up to 85 percent.

The end-of-insurance date was also extended to Nov. 10 in response to some wineries' requests for longer hang times.

"California already had these good improvements of the grape program," Seufer said. "That's really what we emulated (in Western Washington). The producers worked with our office a great deal."

Staff writer Tim Hearden is based in Shasta Lake, Calif. E-mail: thearden@capitalpress.com .

Online

For more information about the Grape Multi-Peril Crop Insurance program in Western Washington, log on to a free online seminar at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, at http://breeze.wsu.edu/westgrape/.

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