Trump Budget Proposes Massive Cuts to Essential Wine Industry Programs

by Michael Kaiser, Vice President


This week the Trump Administration released their Fiscal Year 2018 Federal Budget Request. This document outlines the Administration’s budget priorities for the next fiscal year. The document is non-binding and is no more than a suggestion to Congress for spending priorities. Congress controls the spending power of the federal government and is under no obligation to match the proposals put forward in the budget request. The government is funded through September 30, 2017 by the spending bill  passed late last month. Congress will begin work on the FY 2018 Appropriations Bill this summer. The Administration’s Budget proposes massive cuts to some of our key priorities:

TTB: The FY 2018 Budget Request proposes a $7 million decrease in funding for TTB. The current funding level is $106 million. That includes the $5 million for COLA and formula approvals that we worked to secure at the end of 2015 and was maintained this year. The additional funding allowed TTB to get COLA turnaround times for wine down to five days, down from upward of a month just a few years ago. A cut of this size would put that in jeopardy and would impede wineries from getting their product to market.

Specialty Crop Block Grants and Value Added Producer Grants: The Trump Budget Proposal eliminates all funding for the Speciality Crop Block Grant and Value Added Producer Grant Programs. These two programs are authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill, but the Administration can recommend eliminating the funding for the programs. The current funding for the Speciality Crop Block Grant program is currently $68 million and the Value Added Producer Grant Program is currently $14 million. Many wineries, vineyards, trade associations and universities rely on these programs for essential marketing and research needs.

Market Access Program: The Market Access Program (MAP) assists U.S. specialty crop producers to create, expand, and maintain access to foreign markets. This successful public/private cooperation is an effective tool for increasing access to consumers around the world and generating job creating export income for rural communities.  The Trump Budget Proposal eliminates funding for the Market Access Program. The current funding level is $200 million. Wine producers from California, Washington, Oregon and New York have used the MAP program extensively to market their wines outside of the US. Completely cutting the program would be devastating to the marketing efforts of those states, with a ripple effect throughout the rest of the industry. If these larger producing states lose their export markets, the wines will need to be sold elsewhere, and the most likely market is back in the United States.

Next Steps: WineAmerica will be working with our allies in various coalitions to insure that Congress does not strip the funding for these important programs. We will be taking meetings with relevant Members of Congress. We will ask for your help too. When Congress begins the Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations Process we will be asking you, our valued members, to reach out to your Congressional Delegations to tell them how important a fully funded TTB is and how essential these USDA programs are for the American wine industry.


WineAmerica is the national voice the American wine industry. Based in Washington, D.C., WineAmerica represents wineries in 41 states and leads a coalition of state and regional wine and grape associations. As an industry leader, WineAmerica encourages the dynamic growth and development of American wineries and winegrowing through the advancement and advocacy of sound public policy.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) Receives Leadership Award from U.S. Wine Industry

Contact:  Michael Kaiser
Vice President

May 1, 2017

Senator Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon was presented the 2017 Grape and Wine Public Policy Leadership Award by members of WineAmerica and Winegrape Growers of America last week in Washington DC during the jointly held National Policy Conference.

“Senator Wyden has been a true champion of Oregon wines for years,” said Janie Brooks Heuck, Secretary of the WineAmerica Board of Directors, who presented the award.  “As the owner of Brooks Wines in the Willamette Valley, I have benefited firsthand from his strong leadership, so it is a pleasure for me to help recognize him.”

Senator Wyden has been a tireless supporter of the American wine and grape industries over the years, working to modernize the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and most recently acting as the chief Senate sponsor of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act. This initiative is the first comprehensive federal alcohol excise tax reform proposal that includes tax relief for wineries, breweries and distilleries.

Trent Preszler, PhD, WineAmerica Chair and CEO of Bedell Cellars in New York said, “There are wineries in all 50 States, and we need the type of broad-based leadership that Senator Wyden has provided to advance this all-American industry.  We are truly grateful for his support.”

“Senator Wyden defies the conventional view that Washington, DC is broken. He is an effective, results-oriented legislator who demonstrates a ready willingness to work on a bipartisan basis,” said John Aguirre, Executive Director of Winegrape Growers of America.

The Grape and Wine Public Policy Leadership Award will be awarded on an annual basis to legislators who have shown exemplary leadership on issues of importance to the American wine and grape industries.


WineAmerica is the national association of American wineries based in Washington, DC.  Each year it convenes a public policy meeting that combines education and meetings with legislators on key issues.  The meeting is held in conjunction with Winegrape Growers of America, an organization of grower associations from around the country.

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WineAmerica Spring Meeting Brings New Energy to Issues and Organization

Contact:  Michael Kaiser
Vice President


Washington, DC – WineAmerica, the national association of American wineries, held its annual National Wine and Grape Policy Conference this week in Washington, DC in conjunction with Winegrape Growers of America. The three-day conference attracted wine industry leaders from across the country to meet, learn about, and weigh in on the most pressing public policy issues affecting growers and wineries.

The new Administration and changed political climate in Washington provided the backdrop for the spring meeting, which included new energy relative to both the issues and the organization itself. Expert speakers described the evolving political climate as well as key issues affecting the American grape and wine industry. Among many specific topics covered were federal excise tax reform, music licensing guidelines, immigration policy, trade negotiations, the Farm Bill, and funding for research and export promotion.

“The American wine industry faces numerous challenges, and this annual conference is always a great way to fully understand them and educate legislators and the Administration about our concerns and priorities,” said Jim Trezise, President of WineAmerica. “Our organization also has new energy, people and projects that all point to a very promising future.”

The event began with the Wines of America Congressional reception, where members of Congress, their staff and selected guests sampled wines from 29 states.

The WineAmerica Board of Directors meeting was also held, where the Board committed to a robust and vibrant national membership campaign and appointed a new at-large member.

Kirk Wiles, the CEO and Founder of Paradise Springs Winery was appointed to the vacant at-large WineAmerica Board Seat. Paradise Springs Winery operates out of both Fairfax County, Virginia and Santa Barbara, California–the only winery in the United States that is truly bi-coastal. Wiles’ Virginia winery has the official distinction of being the closest vineyard to Washington, D.C., located about 23 miles from Capitol Hill. The farm Wiles inherited was originally part of a land grant from Lord Fairfax to his family in 1716. The vineyard’s log cabin, now used for wine tastings, was renovated by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1955.

“We are very excited to appoint Kirk Wiles to the WineAmerica Board”, said Trent Preszler, PhD, CEO of Bedell Cellars on Long Island and WineAmerica Board chair. “Kirk has proven himself to be a leader in the Virginia wine industry with his service on the Virginia Wine Board, and his bi-coastal brand will provide a unique perspective to the WineAmerica Board”

WineAmerica has also initiated two distinct projects intended to grow our footprint in Washington, DC and increase our membership nationwide. This spring WineAmerica initiated the first comprehensive economic impact study of the American wine industry in over ten years. WineAmerica has contracted John Dunham and Associates to conduct the study, which will examine the total economic impact of the American wine industry in the United States.

“We know that the American wine industry is a major economic engine, but until now we haven’t had the specific metrics to illustrate that with reliable numbers,” said WineAmerica President Jim Trezise. “The results of this study will strengthen our case to lawmakers that creating a favorable business climate through sound public policy will be a great investment for the country.”

The WineAmerica Board will also be working to increase our national winery membership. Janie Brooks Heuck, Managing Director of Brooks Winery in the Willamette Valley and the Chair of the WineAmerica Membership and Marketing Committee, will be spearheading the national membership drive over the course of the next six months.

“WineAmerica is the only national winery association representing the interests of all American wineries in Washington, D.C. The more members we have, the greater influence we have with our congressional leaders,” said WineAmerica Janie Brooks Heuck, “Moreover, membership in WineAmerica has brought direct return on investment to wineries by advocating for legislative and regulatory reforms as well as added value services. Current efforts related to federal excise tax reform and music licensing will only increase the fiscal and operational savings to our members.”

The next WineAmerica Board of Directors meeting will take place in Napa Valley, California on November 9-10, 2017. The Spring Meeting of 2018 will be held in conjunction with the USBevX conference and trade show in Washington, DC on February 21 and 22.


WineAmerica is the national voice the American wine industry. Based in Washington, D.C., WineAmerica represents wineries in 41 states and leads a coalition of state and regional wine and grape associations. As an industry leader, WineAmerica encourages the dynamic growth and development of American wineries and winegrowing through the advancement and advocacy of sound public policy.

First Richard R. Smith Perpetual Award Presented to John Martini

SACRAMENTO, CA, January 25, 2017—The first-ever Richard R. Smith Perpetual Award for major contributions to the American grape and wine industry, and to research, was presented today to John Martini, co-owner of Martini Vineyards and Anthony Road Winery in New York’s Finger Lakes region.

The presentation was made by the Smith family at the annual Leadership Luncheon of Winegrape Growers of America, which co-sponsored the award with WineAmerica and the National Grape and Wine Initiative. The luncheon was held during the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, the country’s largest industry conference and trade show.

The late Richard “Rich” Smith was the founder and co-owner of Paraiso Vineyards and Smith Family Wines in California’s Monterey region. He was also a very active member of all three sponsoring organizations as well as many others on the local and state levels. He was widely known and revered for his passion for the winegrowing industry, commitment to enhance its future, and collaboration with colleagues to achieve that goal. Those three words—Passion, Commitment, Collaboration—are on the award, which will be presented annually to a person reflecting Rich’s defining traits and huge accomplishments for the common good.

Rich’s family—wife Claudia, son Jason, and daughter Kacy—presented the first annual award to John Martini. Claudia Alexander Smith said, “I maintain fond memories of board meetings in D.C. with much ‘pounding the pavement’ in teams with the Martinis as we visited our Congressional representatives on behalf of Winegrape Growers of America and WineAmerica. John Martini never ceased to amaze both Rich and me with his boundless enthusiasm to build not just his and Ann’s dream business in the Finger Lakes, but the grape and wine business in every state across America. And it has changed from a few states growing wine grapes and making local wines, to every state having a healthy robust wine business. John continues to be very active with both those organizations to this very day, as well as the National Grape & Wine Initiative. Rich is surely smiling to see John Martini, with Ann by his side, receive this ‘Rich Smith’ perpetual award on behalf of WA, WGA, NGWI and Smith Family Wines.”

Jason Smith commented, “Our family is honored to have my Dad’s commitment to this industry represented by this perpetual award. John Martini is the East Coast version of my Dad…true dedication, passion and love for the industry, the community and most importantly his family. His tireless work and ability to put others before himself made this selection easy for the Richard R Smith Award. We know my Dad is raising his glass of pinot noir in celebration of this great achievement and recognition.”

Like Rich Smith, John Martini is family man first, a grape grower second, and winery owner third who shares a passion for research. John and his wife Ann started their Martini Vineyards on Seneca Lake in 1973 and opened Anthony Road Winery in 1985. Similar to the Smith family, the Martini’s run a family business in which their children have become co-owners and deeply involved in all aspects from production to finance and marketing. In fact, the rotating images on the home page of feature images of John and Ann, and another including all the generations. In addition, the Martini’s treat all their employees like extended family.

Also like Rich, John has been active in all three sponsoring organizations and many more on local and state levels. He has served as Chair for both NGWI and WGA, was President of the Seneca Lake Wine Trail and New York State Wine Grape Growers, and has served for many years on the Board of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. The best way to describe John is that, “He’s always there.” When, for example, the NGWI Executive Committee would meet in Sacramento for a day, he would take a 5 am multi-segment flight from upstate New York, attend the meeting, then take a red-eye back home—before driving his van five hours to New York City to sell wine directly to consumers at Union Square Greenmarket.

“Rich and John are basically bicoastal spiritual brothers,” said Jim Trezise, President of WineAmerica, which initiated the award. “They first met through WGA in the early 1980’s and immediately developed a strong bond centered around their love for family, winegrowing, the community it creates, and the joy of working together for the common good. They are people you can always count on.”

Todd Newhouse, Chair of Winegrape Growers of America, said: “There isn’t a more deserving and more fitting recipient for this prestigious award than John Martini. John has always given more time than is expected to our national industry on both the winery and vineyard sides. When it comes to national issues, including research, he understood there shouldn’t be a distinction between wineries and vineyards because we are all one industry. No one understands that more than John.”

To select the recipient of the Richard R. Smith Perpetual Award, all three organizations and the Smith family were invited to submit nominations, with representatives from the three groups and the family making the final selection. There is no requirement that the recipient be associated with any of the three organizations, just that he or she has made major contributions to the American grape and wine industry while demonstrating the key characteristics of Rich Smith.


Tara Good and Michael Kaiser Named Vice Presidents of WineAmerica


MEDIA CONTACT: Michael Kaiser,

Washington, DC, December 12, 2016—Long-time WineAmerica staff members Tara Good and Michael Kaiser have been elevated to the role of Vice President effective December 1.

Since joining WineAmerica in 2012, Tara Good has held the positions of Manager of Member Services and Director of Operations. Her new position as Vice President reflects her expanding responsibilities representing WineAmerica on Capitol Hill and across the country.

“Tara has been a leader in the organization,” says Trent Preszler, CEO of Bedell Cellars and Board Chairman of WineAmerica. “She has emerged as the industry expert on the important issue of music licensing. Her unique background demonstrates an ability to respond and adapt to the changing political climate in Washington D.C. and the needs of the American wine industry.”

Good entered government affairs as an assistant at the Distilled Spirits Council in Washington, D.C. A two-time recipient of the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship, she studied Arabic in Jordan and Oman. She previously managed Middle Eastern and North African cultural programming for the Levantine Cultural Center in Los Angeles. A native of Sonoma County, California, Good received her B.A. from Fordham University in International/Inter-cultural Studies and Theater. Following graduation, she worked several years in New York City theater, including as an assistant on the Broadway show Golda’s Balcony. She received her M.A. from New York University in Performance Studies where she studied the intersection of religion and government.

Michael Kaiser joined WineAmerica in July of 2006 and has held a variety of positions with the organization over the years. Michael was first hired as the Manager of Regulatory Affairs, to assist WineAmerica with issues related to the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Since then he has held the positions of Director of Communications and most recently Director of Public Affairs. He also represents WineAmerica on the board of Free the Grapes and the National Grape and Wine Initiative.

“Michael has been an essential member of the WineAmerica team for over ten years,” says Chairman Preszler. “He has a wealth of knowledge in the regulatory and legislative realms, and will continue to be an indispensable resource to the American wine industry.”

Prior to joining WineAmerica, Kaiser provided research and logistical support to two Washington, D.C. based lobbying firms. He also handled compliance issues with a major political party. Michael earned his B.A. in American Studies and Political Science from Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and a M.A. in Political Science from American University in Washington, D.C.


WineAmerica is the national voice the American wine industry. Based in Washington, D.C., WineAmerica represents wineries in 43 states and leads a coalition of state and regional wine and grape associations. As an industry leader, WineAmerica encourages the dynamic growth and development of American wineries and winegrowing through the advancement and advocacy of sound public policy.