Who will pick the grapes?

Art Hunt, co-owner, and co-founder of Hunt Country Vineyards in Branchport, recently sent a letter to Congressman Tom Reed. It was signed by over 50 winery owners, vineyard owners, and individuals connected to the Finger Lakes wine industry. Their concern is that, without legally-employed immigrant workers, our local wineries and vineyards – and agriculture in general – could suffer a devastating blow.

“For 35 years Congress has been kicking the can down the road on creating a legal and safe guest-worker program to support America’s farms and agriculture,” wrote Hunt. “It’s a huge problem for all of us and an issue our Congress needs to correct. If Congress doesn’t do their job and create a safe legal way to allow foreign workers to come and go to the waiting jobs in America, many local businesses in our district will be destroyed because of the Trump administration’s current approach to immigrant workers.”

There are currently 22 wineries in Yates County. According to a 2010 report from the Yates County Chamber of Commerce (the last date available for this report), local wineries produced retail sales totaling $17.9 mil for that year. This translated into $715,615 of sales tax revenue for the county; 8 percent of total sales tax revenue for Yates County in 2010.

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