Wineries are being invited to apply for funding to grow more grapes as the provincial government invests up to $1 million in expansion. Premier Stephen McNeil, and Kings South MLA Keith Irving, on behalf of Agriculture Minister Keith Colwell, joined members of the Nova Scotia Wine Development Board to announce the Vineyard Development and Expansion program today, Dec. 8, at Avondale Sky Winery in Newport Landing, Hants Co. “Nova Scotia’s wine sector is a growing industry with huge potential and we want to help our growers and producers meet the demand for Nova Scotia’s high-quality wines,” said Premier McNeil. “The value of the wine industry will increase with more grapes available and that’s important to our rural communities because it secures jobs and creates economic spinoffs.” Nova Scotia’s wineries produce about 1.8 million litres of wine annually and had sales of $15.4 million in 2014. The industry wants to increase the amount of grapes grown to 1,000 acres by 2020 from 632 acres in production now. There are 20 wineries in Nova Scotia and the industry accounted for $7.3 million in wages last year. Wineries are important to tourism with 100,000 visitors to winery properties in 2014. The provincial government created the Nova Scotia Wine Development Board in 2014 to receive advice on ways to grow its potential to create jobs and increase sales. The board has identified increasing grape production as a priority. “The two major hurdles to vineyard expansion are the initial capital cost and the time required to achieve production, meaning a substantial investment is needed by a grower or winery,” said Stewart Creaser of Avondale Sky Winery. “The new assistance will help address these challenges, accelerate the rate of vineyard expansion in the province and produce much needed sustainable rural employment opportunities.” Existing growers with a minimum of five acres of grapes planted will be able to apply for up to $6550 in support for each additional acre planted. New entrants to grape growing and smaller producers will also be able to apply for the funding to increase their acreage up to the five-acre minimum. They will need to submit a plan demonstrating how they will achieve that target by March 31, 2018. To qualify for funding all applicants must be a member of either the Winery Association of Nova Scotia or the Grape Growers Association of Nova Scotia. The deadline for applications is Dec. 18. Guidelines and an application form for the program are available at http://novascotia.ca/programs/vineyard-development-and-expansion/.