WINEGRAPE growers fear they could be left out in the cold by the merger of two of the industry's statutory bodies.
Federal Minister for Agriculture Senator Joe Ludwig last week approved a proposal to merge the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation and Wine Australia.
Senator Ludwig said combining the two would provide a clearer direction for the industry and improve efficiencies and service delivery.
Murray Valley Winegrowers chief executive Mark McKenzie said growers had indicated their support "in principle", but were yet to be convinced of the benefits.
Senator Ludwig addressed one of their concerns, promising legislation to be introduced next year would guarantee that research and development funding was safeguarded for research and development and related extension purposes.
Mr McKenzie said there needed to be a conduit to allow formal input from and feedback to the winegrape sector about the investment decisions and policies of the board of the new combined corporation.
And it was vital for the board to have at least one board member who understood viticulture.
Mr McKenzie said Senator Ludwig had indicated selection committees for research and development corporations should be skills-based instead of being drawn from nominees of the two peak industry bodies, Wine Grape Growers Australia and the Winemakers Federation of Australia.
"We run the risk of having a board based on skills, selected by people on a skills-based selection committee, who are at arm's length from what's required from the industry's perspective," he said.
Wine Australia chief executive Andrew Cheesman told this month's WA annual general meeting that priorities for the new body included building and protecting the reputation of Australian wine and improving its market access.
The two bodies have a combined budget of about $36 million a year.