Joint Farm Bill Proposal Hits a Wall as Super Committee Fails

By Jennifer Montgomery

Late last week, we were advised by Agriculture Committee staff that the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees had reached a tentative agreement on a 2012 Farm Bill proposal to be submitted to the Super Committee for consideration in the deficit reduction deliberations. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS), had been working alongside House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) to proactively come up with a Farm Bill proposal to cut $23 billion dollars out of the agriculture budget over the next 10 years. WineAmerica, along with other members of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, had been working to try to ensure that critical specialty crop programs were protected as much as possible during this process.
While we did not see any legislative language at that time, some information on specialty crop programs was released. Under that tentative proposal, priority specialty crop programs would have faired well, under the circumstances:
· Blocks grants would have been funded at $70 million per year (up from $55 million).
o They included a multi-state component that will be used to enhance multi-state projects.
o They added acres to the calculation of how funding would allocated to each state.
· The Pest and Disease Title would have been funded at $60 million for the first two years and $65 million thereafter (current is $50 million).
o It would have rolled the Clean Plant Network into section 10201 of the Pest & Disease Title.
· It would have provided $400 million over 10 years for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) and would have protected the baseline for those 10 years, so the program would not have been truncated.
· The Value-Added Producer Grant program would have received $15 million in mandatory money, which is the current funding level in the 2008 Farm Bill.
But in light of the collapse of the Super Committee’s efforts, this proposal is not on the table and the general expectation is that the 2012 Farm Bill will now be written and considered in regular order, the way previous Farm Bills have been developed.
Given the hard work and bi-partisan cooperation that went into the creation of the proposal, WineAmerica considers it to be a good first step and it is hoped that it will serve as the foundation of the upcoming Farm Bill process – whatever that process turns out to be.

DTC Wine Symposium Expands to San Francisco, January 18-19, 2012

Once again, WineAmerica is a sponsor of the successful Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium, the annual summit on wine direct marketing and sales. We encourage your marketing teams to attend.
Organized by vintners, for vintners, the fifth annual summit will take place at the Stanford Court Hotel in San Francisco on January 18 (evening) and January 19 (day).
Speakers from within and outside the wine industry will address topics such as:
· Branding in the Digital Age (Keynote)
· State of the States: What to Expect in 2012
· Taking Your Wine Club to the Next Level
· Using Video to Boost Sales
· How to Improve E-commerce Campaigns
· Training Tasting Room Staff, A to Z

The summit is an important fundraiser for the co-presenters, Free the Grapes! and Coalition for Free Trade. We have worked with these groups and other associations to increase the number of legal states for winery shipment from 17 to 38 in the last decade. Their focus on PR and litigation, respectively, has played an instrumental role, complementing industry representation in state capitols and Washington D.C.

There are several new components for the 2012 event:
  • DTC Winery Check Up: This results of this research project, which aggregates DTC sales performance for 120+ wineries along 18 separate metrics, will be presented January 19.
  • Video Contest: The Steering Committee will recognize outstanding achievement in video production by naming and promoting three winning winery promotional videos.
  • January 18 Evening Social Mixer: A short presentation will be followed by a wine reception and mixer for registrants and sponsors at the Stanford Court.

Early registration pricing for the evening social mixer ($75) and full day of programs ($375) ends December 12. The Stanford Court Hotel’s reduced rate of $209/night expires December 18. View the program and register at

WineAmerica Supports Federal Bill Allowing USPS to Deliver Wine to Consumers

November 18, 2011

The Senate recently introduced S. 1789, the “21st Century Postal Service Act of 2011.” The bill includes a provision—section 404—that would modify federal law to allow the shipping of wine by the U.S. Postal Service (“USPS”). As a longtime advocate of winery direct-to-consumer shipping, WineAmerica supports this important provision, with qualification.
WineAmerica believes in fair markets and competition in the sale and distribution of wine. For years, there has been a growing mismatch between the state-based legal distribution system adopted in the wake of Prohibition and the wine market, particularly as it relates to small wine brands. See, e.g., Federal Trade Commission, Working Paper No. 304, State Regulation of Alcohol Distribution: The Effects of Post & Hold Laws on Consumption and Social Harms (Sept. 2010). Direct-to-consumer shipping has proven highly effective both from the standpoint of allowing consumers to find and purchase the wines they want, and of providing regulators the ability to collect taxes and prevent underage consumption. See, e.g., Comptroller of Maryland, Direct Wine Shipment Report (Dec. 2010).
Common carriers such as FedEx and the UPS have secured licenses, permits or approvals to deliver wine directly from wineries to consumers in at least 38 states. State laws typically mandate:
(1) that packages containing wine include a shipping label indicating their contents; and
(2) that common carriers obtain the signature of an adult on delivery.
State laws may also require common carriers:
(1) to file wine delivery reports; and
(2) to refuse receipt of shipments from businesses that do not follow state legal requirements.
These tools ensure state regulatory control over wine deliveries. E.g., id. at 66-69.
Section 404 of S. 1789 would allow “a licensed winery” to ship via USPS “in accordance with the law of the State, territory, or district of the United States where the addressee or a duly authorized agent takes delivery.” Wineries would gain the ability to ship through USPS to consumers, provided they followed state shipping laws with respect to licensing, tax payment, and regulatory control.
We fully support the laudable goals of section 404 of S. 1789 because the provision would give wineries and consumers greater access and choice with respect to the delivery of wine, subject to state shipping law. We believe, however, that the legislation contains several technical ambiguities that must be clarified before passage. They are:
· USPS must be subject to the same state requirements that bind other common carriers, including license applications and the power of states to rescind delivery authority; and
· The definition of “wine” used in section 404 should include all wines produced in accordance with the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. § 5041(a); 27 C.F.R. § 24.10) rather than the more limited definition provided in the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (27 U.S.C. § 211).
In its current form, section 404 represents a significant step forward for winery and consumer choice, but before WineAmerica can fully support the bill, without qualification, the language must be fixed to account both for state legal obligations and for the products produced by U.S. wineries.
WineAmerica will continue to support efforts that simplify and improve winery direct-to-consumer shipping laws, and hope that Congress will see fit to pass this important legislation with the suggested changes.

WineAmerica Co-Hosting Wine and Shellfish Reception on Capitol Hill Tonight

Tonight WineAmerica, the Wine Institute and the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association are co-sponsoring a white wine and shellfish reception for the Congressional Wine Caucus and the Congressional Shellfish Caucus. Traditionally this has been an event that only served California wine. For the first time WineAmerica is providing wine from the East Coast for this event. Special thanks to the Virginia Wine Marketing Board, the Long Island Wine Council, Fox Run Vineyards (NY), Priam Vineyards (CT), Boordy Vineyards (MD), Black Ankle Vineyards (MD), Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard (MD) and Knob Hall Winery (MD) for donating wine for this event.

The following East Coast wines will be served with select wines from California, provided by the Wine Instutite

Priam Vineyards Chardonnay
Priam Vineyards Gewurtztraminer

Black Ankle Vineyards 2010 Viognier
Boordy Vineyards 2010 Reserve Chardonnay
Knob Hall Tryst White Blend
Knob Hall 2010 Vidal Blanc
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyards 2010 Chardonnay

Finger Lakes, NY
Anthony Road Wine Company 2010 Pinot Gris
Anthony Road Wine Company 2009 Riesling
Fox Run Vineyards Arctic Fox White Wine
Fox Run Vineyards 2010 Chardonnay
Miles Wine Cellars 2010 Chardonnay
Miles Wine Cellars Ghost White Wine

Long Island, NY
Bedell Cellars 2008 “Taste White” White Wine
Palmer Vineyards 2009 Pinot Blanc
Scarola Vineyards 2009 “Capella” Chardonnay
Sparkling Point 2007 Brut Sparkling Wine
Waters Crest Winery 2010 Sauvignon Blanc
Wolffer Estate 2010 Classic White

Barboursville Vineyards 2009 Viognier
Breaux Vineyards 2010 Viognier
Gray Ghost 2009 Chardonnay
Jefferson Vineyards 2010 Chardonnay

2011 Fall Board Meeting in Boise

By Michael Kaiser

The annual WineAmerica Fall Board of Directors and Membership meeting has come and gone once again. This year we visited the Snake River Valley in Southwest Idaho. The Snake River Valley is Idaho’s first American viticultural area and is home to the largest concentration of wineries and vineyards in the state. The meeting itself was held at Hotel 43, a boutique hotel in Downtown Boise. This year we had attendees from Maryland, Nebraska, Idaho, Michigan, Colorado, California, Washington, Missouri, Oregon, Virginia, South Dakota, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Ohio.

The WineAmerica Board of Directors discussed a wide range of new association initiatives this week, and there will be more news on those initiatives as they progress. The WineAmerica Board and the State Associations Council also held various policy discussions ranging from the reauthorization of the Farm Bill to continuing to fight the so-called CARE Act (HR 1161).

On Monday night, the Idaho Wine Commission hosted an informal welcome reception, sponsored by the Southwest Idaho Tourism Association for the meeting attendees. Six local wineries were featured at the reception: Williamson Orchards and Vineyards, Cinder Wines, Bitner Vineyards, Huston Vineyards, Woodriver Cellars and Fraser Vineyards. The group then enjoyed a dinner at Fork Restaurant in Boise featuring local ingredients and wine.

Tuesday after the Board meeting ended we visited Bitner Vineyards (owned and operated by WineAmerica Board member Ron Bitner and his wife Mary) and then went to Ste. Chappelle Winery (the largest in the state) for a catered dinner and wine pairing. An enjoyable ending to a productive day.

The dates and location have been determined for the 2012 Fall Board of Directors and Membership Meeting. The meeting will be in Sonoma County, CA from November 12 to 14, 2012. The exact location has yet to be determined.