Wine: Grower claims for payment spiked in 2010

A disproportionate number of soured crop sales resolved by the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Market Enforcement Branch last year involved North Coast winegrapes, according to department records.

Of the 19 matters that went to agency administrative hearings in 2010, nine involved winegrapes and six of those related to North Coast buyers. By comparison, five winegrape-related matters statewide were settled at hearings in 2009, none in 2008 and one in 2007.

Under the state Food and Agricultural Code, significant-scale processors and handlers of agricultural products must have licenses, renewed annually, to make purchases. If growers can't reach a resolution with buyers or their agents over payment by the terms of the sales contract, they can seek the department's help.

Action by the Market Enforcement Branch can lead to probation, suspension, revocation or nonrenewal of licenses, though license holders can appeal administrative law judge decisions. Also possible are civil penalties and criminal actions in county courts.

Here are the 2010 administrative hearing actions against North Coast licenses, according to the department:

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