When we look around Central Washington, it is hard to miss the thousands of acres of wine grapes that cascade across our rolling hills and valleys. In fact, there were more than 59,000 acres and nearly 70 varieties of wine grapes planted last year.

As the co-chair of the Congressional Wine Caucus — and the first co-chair from outside California — I could not be more proud to represent the Washington wine industry.

With an annual economic impact of $7 billion, Washington’s wine industry is second in size only to California, and our community continues to grow and produce world-class wines. In 2019, Washington state surpassed 1,000 wineries and over 400 individual wine grape growers.

Regardless of whether you prefer cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay, it is very likely you have witnessed the positive economic impact the wine industry has had on our region.

Washington’s high-quality wine is contingent on many factors from weather conditions to soil health, and much of our success is in part due to the groundbreaking wine grape research being conducted throughout our state. The Washington State University Wine Science Center in Richland is studying and finding solutions for issues that affect wine grape growers across the country.

I have worked with my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to secure funding for this important research, and on a recent trip to the WSU Wine Science Center, I spoke directly with students who are researching the effects of wildfire smoke on grapes and winemaking, also known as smoke taint.

Some may enjoy a “smoky” flavored wine from time-to-time, but I can tell you, smoke taint wine is not enjoyable. Now, professors and students are working to understand how smoke affects the growth of wine grapes and how they can prevent wildfires from affecting our wine region and other regions across the West.

Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Vintner’s Logistics, a locally owned company that provides warehousing and transportation services for the wine industries in the Pacific Northwest. Vintner’s Logistics is an example of how wine continues to touch all aspects of our local economy. The owners, Robert and Shari, saw a need and created a business to supplement a booming industry, all the while creating jobs in our community.

Finally, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) expands access into Canada for U.S. wine. Washington’s wine industry is the second largest in the country, and this increased access will benefit Washington wine growers, wine makers, and small-business owners like Robert and Shari.

Central Washington creates an exemplary illustration of the wine industry from start to finish. Ensuring our wine grapes are produced with the backing of the country’s most advanced scientific research, empowering local businesses to get involved in the positive economic impact of the wine community, and promoting markets for our high-quality wine — both here in the United States and across the globe — remain my priorities as co-chair of the Congressional Wine Caucus and as your member of Congress.