Whither Washington, DC?

Mark Chandler, Executive Director

After a brutalizing year of abundant theatre but little action, Congress has only a few weeks left to pass major pieces of legislation affecting agriculture – the budget, the Farm Bill and immigration reform. Or not.

By all accounts this week is critical for the Farm Bill. The conference committees representing the House and Senate have stated they want to make their report before the Thanksgiving break, which starts Friday afternoon. This bill is of greatest import to the wine industry. It contains numerous items that benefit our industry including crop insurance, specialty crop research and block grant funds, the National Clean Plant Network, and Market Access Program funds. We are happy to report that both the Senate and House versions fund the specialty crop items at industry-supported levels.

The major item in the Farm Bill is the food stamp program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP for short). The Senate version calls for $4 billion in cuts, the House $40 billion. Talk of a compromise is in the high single digits, however some positions are still dug in. There is also the prospect that the Farm Bill may be absorbed into some larger budget negotiations.  

The budget is another snarl seeking a solution. In order to try to balance the budget the prospect of excise tax increases and new fees loom in the background. Our messaging in opposition to excise taxes are the following: 1). By its very nature, wine is an expensive product to make (land, equipment, staff, taxes); 2). The wine industry has grown rapidly and supports significant rural economic development; 3). Excise tax increases undermine winery profitability and accordingly rural growth; 4). The small producer tax credit is a particularly important–$90,000 in savings means a lot to a small capital intensive business.

 Unfortunately the high hopes we had for immigration reform earlier this year are fading. The window of opportunity is drawing to a close as higher priority items get dealt with in the few days left to conduct business. We will keep you posted of developments and recommendations for action.

WineAmerica Expands its National Network

For Immediate Release                                                                                
Contact: Mark Chandler                                                                
Executive Director

November 13, 2013       

WineAmerica Expands its National Network

“State and Regional Association Advisory Council” Launched

Washington, DC – WineAmerica, Inc., the National Association of American Wineries, is expanding its State Associations Council (SAC) to allow both state and regional wine groups better access to policy information, and enhanced networking opportunities nationwide. WineAmerica founded the original SAC in 2003 to provide a forum for grassroots activity on wine industry issues. The new changes take effect January 1, 2014.

The revamp involves a minor name change—to State and Regional Associations Advisory Council (SRAAC)—clarifying that regional wine associations are welcome to join. “The new name  makes it clear that all regional wine groups are invited to take their place at the table” explains Mark Chandler, WineAmerica’s Executive Director.

The new council will offer an expanded menu of information sources to serve the grassroots political action needs of winery and grower associations – monthly policy bulletins, action alerts, round-table calls, webinars, Wine Policy Days, and a database of legislative members’ voting records by congressional district. It will also provide a forum for policy recommendations to be advanced to the WineAmerica board of directors for action in Washington, DC.

“These tools will enhance the effectiveness of dozens of winery associations across the country” according to Kevin Atticks, SRAAC Chair, and Executive Director of the Maryland Wineries Association.  “Maryland strongly supports this.”

Jim Trezise, President of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, and a WineAmerica Board Member adds “New York is in. The SRAAC is a vital nexus of contacts and information for directors of state and regional winery and grower trade associations.  The bi-annual face-to-face meetings, monthly telephone conference calls, and frequent electronic communications provide a resource simply not found elsewhere. By bringing people together from all over the country, the SRAAC allows us to share ideas, knowledge and experiences that can make each association stronger and more valuable to its members while unifying the American wine industry.”

“I’m delighted that regional associations are now officially included,” said Steve Bate, Executive Director of the Long Island Wine Council.  “Our association and Long Island wineries have benefited from the work of WineAmerica and the former SAC, and we are excited to have a seat at the table.”

“This isn’t just a name change, it’s a structural change,” said Donniella (Donnie) Winchell, Executive Director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association, which hosted the recent WineAmerica/SAC fall meeting where the changes were made.  “SAC has been an informal group for years, and the newly structured SRAAC not only expands the membership but also the vital grassroots activities of WineAmerica.  We look forward to participating.”

“As a former Chairman of SAC, I strongly endorse this expansion,” said Jim Anderson, Executive Director of the Missouri Wine & Grape Program.  “Like any organization, SAC has been evolving over time, and the new, improved SRAAC is a major step forward.  We look forward to participating.”

“Michigan wineries benefit greatly from WineAmerica’s activities, and I have learned a great deal by attending SAC meetings over the years,” said Linda Jones, Executive Director of the Michigan Wine & Grape Council. “The inclusion of regional associations will provide even more information and networking possibilities.”

From California, Wine Institute’s Vice-President of State Relations Steve Gross observes “I’ve found Wine Institute’s ongoing participation in the SAC to have greatly enhanced our relationships with local winery associations across the country.  All of us are more successful when we have better communication.  I am pleased to see the proposed changes outlined for the SRAAC as they should further enhance all of our efforts on behalf of the wine industry.”

To support these activities a nominal dues structure has been designed to help WineAmerica defray the cost of the program.

To learn more about the State and Regional Association Advisory Council contact Mark Chandler at 202.223.5170, or mchandler@wineamerica.org.

WineAmerica, the National Association of American Wineries, encourages the dynamic growth and development of American wineries and winegrowing through the advancement and advocacy of sound public policy.  With members in 48 states, WineAmerica is the only winery trade association with a nationwide reach.