Lake Erie Grape Farm Cost Survey, 2001-2005

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This report is a summary of five years of grape costs and returns data collected from Lake Erie Region grape growers for the 2001-2005 seasons. “Concord” and “Niagara” grapes utilized for juice and generic wine accounted for over 90 percent of the survey acreage. About two-thirds of the acreage surveyed was in New York and one-third from Pennsylvania. In recent years, 42 to 49 growers participated, with total vineyard acreage ranging from about 4,400 to 5,200 acres. Average costs per acre over the entire five year period were $1,663, including an imputed value for the operator’s labor. Major cost categories were paid labor ($380 per acre), depreciation ($213), interest ($114), operator labor ($116) and chemicals ($117). Average yield per farm was 6.4 tons per acre with a range of 2.8 to 8.6 tons per acre. Growers suffered through some difficult circumstances (poor weather, declining prices) over the past five years. Juice grape cash market prices tended to drift down over the course of the five years. National Grape members’ returns moved upward through 2004 and then suffered a severe drop in 2005. Some growers had custom harvesting or other farm income not tied to grape prices. Some growers collected income from crop insurance, disaster payments, and/or Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) that helped to buoy income in the face of disappointing yields and unharvested grapes in 2003. However, almost half of the farms who were in the survey for all five years had yields of 7 tons or better. These growers are able to compete with other growing regions such as Washington State. Lake Erie Grape Belt farm managers are responding to lower prices in a variety of ways, including becoming more labor efficient, dropping some poor vineyards (especially leased ones), increasing wine grape production, and increasing farm size.

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