Farm Bill Fails in House

By Mark Chandler, Executive Director

While the Senate had passed its version of the Farm Bill, there was high anticipation that the House of Representatives would pass theirs so that the Conference Committee could hammer out a final bill. Such was not the case, as the House failed to pass their bill late last week.

Core pieces of the bill that are important to the wine industry include the National Clean Plant Network, assuring access to virus free materials to supply our ever expanding planting programs; the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and Block Grant Programs, which provide cutting edge research and market development tools; the Market Access Program, a matching funds program that helps us open foreign markets and compete against highly subsidized EU competitors; and crop insurance.

Months of work on behalf of legislators, staff, advocates and constituents pointed to an opportunity for the House to demonstrate a spirit of bipartisanship on a piece of legislation that has ramifications for farmers and non-farmers alike.

The bill passed out of the House Agriculture Committee on a 13-5 vote. When it got to the floor some 226 amendments were filed. About half of them were dismissed by the Rules Committee, or withdrawn by the authors. The most contentious issues were related to the SNAP program (aka food stamps, where a whopping 83% of Farm Bill expenditures go), the level of cuts that would be implemented, as well as a pilot program that would have allowed states to institute work requirements to qualify for food stamps.

There was also disagreement on crop insurance, dairy programs and a myriad of other issues.    

Where do we go from here? Several options exist – taking the bill back up in July, taking up the Senate version (not likely), or vote for an extension of the predecessor 2008 Farm Bill.  An extension of the 2008 Farm Bill was passed at the end of last year.  That extension runs through September 30, and zeroed out funding for the National Clean Plant Network and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative.  .

The nation awaits.

Great American Wine Festival Coming to Portland, Oregon

The Great American Wine Festival (GAWF), a new consumer wine tasting festival, will take place at the DoubleTree Hotel in Portland, Oregon on Saturday, November 16th. Organizers promise it will be a unique festival with wines from regions throughout North America.  WineAmerica is proud to be a sponsor of this new and exciting event.

Wine travel and event organizer Zephyr Adventures is organizing the festival, which takes place the day after the annual industry Wine Tourism Conference. The conference, which will draw to Portland about 230 wine tourism industry leaders from throughout the United States, Canada, and beyond, allows the GAWF to showcase wines from unique wine areas such as Virginia, Idaho, and Ohio in addition to more established areas in California, Oregon, and Washington.

“Due to the Wine Tourism Conference coming to Portland, we have a really unique opportunity to present wines from regions most wine drinkers are not familiar with”, explained GAWF organizer and Zephyr Adventures president Allan Wright. “Everyone attending will be able to enjoy established favorites and experiment with new varietals and regions.”

The conference is being co-organized with the existing Northwest Food & Wine Festival. Festivalgoers can purchase tickets to either or both events, which will occur at the same time in adjoining buildings. “We are very excited to help bring a new wine festival to Portland, especially one that complements the Northwest Food & Wine Festival so well by focusing on wines throughout North America”, said Tina Curry, organizer of the Northwest Food & Wine Festival.

While the GAWF is new, Zephyr Adventure’s contacts in the wine industry have allowed the company to pull together a strong team of promotional partners, including entities such as Yelp, Whole Foods, LocalWineEvents.com, Travel Oregon, King Estate winery, industry trade group WineAmerica, Foodista.com, and half a dozen others.

“WineAmerica is excited to partner with Zephyr Adventures on the Great American Wine Festival,” says Michael Kaiser, WineAmerica’s Director of Communications.  “The American wine industry has seen tremendous growth over the last decade and we look forward to the industry being showcased at this unique event.

About the Great American Wine Festival

The Great American Wine Festival is organized by Montana-based Zephyr Adventures, which also organizes the annual Wine Tourism Conference, Wine Tourism Day, Wine Bloggers Conference, and active wine tours throughout the world. The festival is being conducted in cooperation with the Pacific Northwest Food & Wine Festival. Ticket prices start at only $35 and attendance will be capped at approximately 400 people.

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For further information, contact:

Allan Wright, Zephyr Adventures

888-758-8687

Senate Supports Specialty Crops With Passage of Farm Bill

The following is a press release from the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance.

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance is a national coalition of more than 120 organizations representing growers of fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, nursery plants and other products. The alliance was established to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crop agriculture and improve the health of Americans by broadening the scope of U.S. agricultural public policy.  WineAmerica is a member of the coalition and we have worked with our coalition partners to maintain strong support for specialty crops on Capitol Hill.

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA) applauded the passage of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 in the Senate today with a vote of 66-27. The bill addresses many of the critical priorities outlined by the SCFBA and continues the support of specialty crops that was established in the 2008 Farm Bill.

“This bill makes a strong investment in specialty crops, including critical funding for Specialty Crop Block Grants and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. The Senate has worked hard to produce a bill that will put more fruits and vegetables in schools, enhance our efforts to fight invasive pests and diseases, and help us to market our crops. Now we’ll focus our efforts on an equally successful outcome as the House takes up its bill,” said Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and co-chair of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance.

“We are very pleased by the strong vote in favor of the Farm Bill in the Senate,” said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers and co-chair of the Alliance. “This bill provides the specialty crop community with necessary resources such as funds for food safety enhancement, pest and disease intervention and eradication, and increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables that contribute to healthy diets. We hope that the House of Representatives moves expeditiously next week to likewise pass its version of a bill.”

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance is grateful to the Senate Agriculture Committee for bringing a comprehensive bill to the floor and to the key policymakers who worked with the Alliance to secure support for several programs of particular importance to the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. The bill includes key specialty crop industry priorities such as research, pest and disease mitigation, trade, nutrition, and other programs help producers to be competitive and meet the needs of American consumers. Highlights of the bill include:

  • Specialty Crop Block Grants funded at $70 million per year
  • Specialty Crop Research Initiative funded at $25 million (FY2014); $30 million (FY2015-2016); $65 million (FY2017); $50 million (FY2018)
  • Coordinated Plant Management Program funded at $60 million (FY2014-2017) and $65 million (FY2018)
  • Market Access Program and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops fully funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels
  • Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program fully funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels
  • Section 32 specialty crop purchases funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels
  • DoD Fresh program fully funded at $50 million per year consistent with 2008 levels

The House Agriculture Committee approved their version of the Farm Bill on May 16. The full House is scheduled to consider the legislation the week of June 17.

“This is an important step in the effort to finalize critical federal farm and food policy. The House Agriculture Committee has approved a solid bill that should be approved by the full House so that the measures can proceed to conference to work out any remaining differences,” said John Keeling, National Potato Council executive vice president and CEO and co-chair of the Alliance.

For more information, visit www.strongeragriculture.org.

TTB Announces Modification of Mandatory Label Information

On June 10, the TTB will publish a final rule regarding mandatory label information.  The new rule will modify the regulations regarding the labeling of alcohol content on wine labels.  Currently the regulations specify that alcohol content must be on the brand or “front” label.  The new rule will specify that alcohol content can now appear on other labels affixed to the container.  This new rule will conform the TTB wine labeling regulations to the World Wine Trade Agreement on Requirements for Wine Labeling.

Additionally, TTB has determined that a new Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) will not be required if the only change made to a previously approved label is moving the alcohol content to a label other than the brand or “front” label.

The new rule goes into effect Friday, August 9.  If you have any questions please contact Michael Kaiser at 202-223-5172 or at mkaiser@wineamerica.org.