Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples today announced the Texas Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for its Wine Grape Investment Grant Program from farmers wishing to expand existing vineyard operations by at least five acres or start new ones.

“The grape grants are an important investment that will produce results for production agriculture and the Texas wine industry,” Commissioner Staples said. “The Texas wine industry ranks fifth in the nation and contributes $1.35 billion annually to our state’s economy. It is critical to continue the expansion of this important industry. The wine grape grant will help support growers committed to increasing their wine grape production.”

TDA initiated this first-of-its-kind program in 2008 and awarded $250,000 in grants to 10 Texas vineyards. Those grants yielded a total new capital investment of $1.4 million into the grape industry.

The Wine Grape Investment Grant Program is housed under TDA’s Rural Economic Development Division. Applications will be accepted through March 3, 2010. For program details and eligibility requirements, producers may visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov.

About the Texas Wine Industry

Texas produces nearly 2.5 million gallons of wine each year and supports:

• More than 180 wineries;

• More than 280 family-owned vineyards;

• More than 9,000 Texans; and

• More than 958,000 wine tourists annually.

The Texas Department of Agriculture is dedicated to supporting and growing the Texas wine industry through:

• Education and research related to vineyard management, grape growing and wine making;

• Extension expertise and resources; and

• Marketing, marketing research and promotion.