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.