What’s Going on in Washington, DC

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It has been nearly two weeks since the federal government shutdown and things are back in working order again, at least for the time being.  The TTB is once again accepting COLA and formula applications, and Congress can focus on some other issues of concern to the wine industry.

We, as an industry, continue to have three main areas of concern in regards to federal policy:

The Farm Bill: A congressional conference committee is now in the process of talking over the possible terms of a compromise five year farm bill. Both House and Senate committee members are publicly optimistic about finding common ground, but with food stamps likely the hinge around which everything turns, it’s hard to predict if a compromise bill passable by the full Congress is possible. Reportedly, there’s been some advance work to get easy language differences off the table. The President has made passage of the farm bill one of his top three priorities by year end. Whether this has a positive or negative impact remains to be seen.  The re-authorization of the farm bill is essential for the wine industry.  Important projects like the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the National Clean Plant Network.

Immigration Reform: Immigration reform is also being pushed to the front burner by members of Congress. Unfortunately it does not seem like the House and the Senate will be able to come to an agreement this year.  Earlier in the year, it looked like we could see a bi-partisan immigration reform proposal, but with the debt ceiling crisis, and government shutdown, it has gone on the backburner.  The President has indicated that he wants immigration reform before his term is over in 2017.  A new version of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act was introduced by U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-27th District) on October 8th into the House of Representatives. The bill includes the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate as well as a House measure known as the Boarder Results Act which gained support from both parties. The proposal would introduce visa reform and shorten the citizenship path for agricultural workers as well as providing extended protections for both immigrant and U.S. agricultural laborers.

Taxes: The government shutdown/debt ceiling fight has led to the creation of a new budget conference committee.  Members on both sides of the aisle have made it clear that “everything will be on the table”.  Democrats on the committee have expressed an interest in revenues.  The danger here is the possibility of creating “user fees” for TTB regulation.  Or, even worse, an increase of the Federal Wine Excise Tax.

For much more information, log in as a member to read the latest issue of the Federal Wine Policy Bulletin. Under “Policy” click on “National Wine Policy Bulletin.”

 

 

The Government Shutdown is Over

The Federal Government is now open for business.

The TTB should be accepting new COLA applications today.  If you need to submit a COLA, we suggest waiting a few days as the system could be overloaded today.

Wine related issues still remain unaddressed.

  • Farm BillIf the Farm Bill is not reauthorized or extended this year, it will revert to the 1948 version, ending all funding for wine assistance programs. 
  • Immigration Reform: Current law (H2-A) is cumbersome and ineffective. Labor shortages are common place and are causing crop and financial losses. We need bi-partisan cooperation to write legislation that works.

We urge you to contact your Members of Congress and Senators to encourage bipartisan cooperation on our issues.  WineAmerica will continue to work for wineries here in Washington, DC.

 

Wine Policy Day: Another Casualty of the Government Shutdown

By Michael Kaiser, Director of Communications

One of the new policy initiatives at WineAmerica is Wine Policy Day.  Wine Policy Day is a coordinated effort with the State Associations Council to bring Members of Congress and other elected officials to local wineries to educate them on the policy barriers that wineries face.  It is designed to help build long term relationships between elected officials and the wineries in their districts and states.  Wineries are one of the few growth industries in this country, and our elected officials need to know about their positive economic impact. Unfortunately, due to the on-going conflict in Washington resulting in the closure of the United State government, Wine Policy Day has been cancelled for 2013.

The 2013 version of Wine Policy Day was to be a pilot program.  Three states had signed up to participate: Arizona, Maryland and Ohio.  The various events were to be held during the Congressional Columbus Day recess (October 12-20) when Members of Congress are back in their home districts.  Last Friday, October 11, Wines and Vines Magazine posted a feature article on their webpage about our plans for Wine Policy Day.  We were very pleased at the coverage the initiative received.  The article underscores the importance of education on wine policy issues.  Due to the continuing federal government shutdown, Congress will be in session the week of October 14, leading to the postponement of the 2013 version of Wine Policy Day.

In the current political environment, our issues are pushed to the side, but are no less important.  The wine industry needs a Farm Bill to pass, and we need comprehensive immigration reform. The threat of a federal excise tax increase is real.  And, right now, countless wineries are unable to print labels due to TTB’s closure.

WineAmerica plans to reschedule Wine Policy Day, but in the meantime, we urge all WineAmerica members to contact your Representatives and let them know about our issues.  Invite them to your wineries and show them how wineries help the local economy grow.  Review WineAmerica’s Policy Day manual and don’t hesitate to contact us for guidance. You have the power to change the legislation that affects you. Make your voice heard.

To read the article about Wine Policy Day in Wines and Vines, please go here:

http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=news&content=122795

Tips to Avoid Expensive Health Insurance Mistakes

Tips to Avoid Expensive Health Insurance Mistakes

On Oct.1,  America’s health care system underwent the biggest change since Medicare’s arrival 50 years ago, when certain provisions of the ACA kicked in. Even though millions of people who have been without health coverage should finally be able to get it, the system will remain just as complex as it has been. USI Affinity  has access to all plans either on or off the state exchange. We can help with plan selections, determining a members eligibility for tax credits, and much more.

Consumer Reports Money Advisor offers these tips for unnecessary fees, penalties, and just plain bad deals.

  1. Don’t assume because you are healthy you don’t need health insurance and remember open enrollment for 2014 ends March 31, 2014
  2. Don’t pick a plan solely based on low premiums. There is no free lunch in health insurance, but there is a host of payment options to choose from. You can pay for your care upfront, in the form of a higher premium, or later, in the form of a higher co-payment, a bigger deductible or a combo of both.
  3. Don’t carelessly go out of network. Even a PPO plan that entitles you to get care from docs and hospitals out of network, do not pay their normal 80% cost of care. You would be on the hook for the difference.
  4. Don’t miss the Medicare sign–up deadline. Sign up during the month you turn 65 or three months before or after.

 

More Questions? Contact USI Affinity at http://benefits.usiaffinity.com/wineamerica/

What the Federal Government Shutdown Means for Wineries

Due to the continuing debate over the Affordable Healthcare Act, the Federal Government shut down at 12am last night. What does this mean for wineries?

Services deemed non-essential have been suspended. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has suspended all regulatory functions, non-criminal investigative activities and audit functions.  This means that all reviews of alcohol beverage labels, formulas and permits will be suspended until funding is reinstated.  The TTB has been bogged down with label reviews for quite some time now, and any suspension or services will only exacerbate this problem. Meanwhile, all tax remittances will continue to be processed by the TTB as these functions are deemed necessary for safety and protection of property.

While Congress works to sort out government funding, issues important to wineries remain unaddressed. 

  • Farm BillIf the Farm Bill is not reauthorized or extended this year, it will revert to the 1948 version, ending all funding for wine assistance programs. 
  • Immigration Reform: Current law (H2-A) is cumbersome and ineffective. Labor shortages are common place and are causing crop and financial losses. We need bi-partisan cooperation to write legislation that works.

We urge you to contact your Members of Congress and Senators to encourage bipartisan cooperation to make sure TTB has the funds it needs to resume its operations and to further our issues in Congress.  WineAmerica will continue to work for wineries here in Washington, DC.