Policy Perspectives

DC Update: Deadlines and Dead Ends

The Senate was back this week, with the House joining them next week after a very long summer recess. Between now and the end of this month, both chambers will be in DC at the same time for just 11 days. That’s important (and alarming) because a government shutdown will start on October 1 unless they jointly pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded at current levels for several more months—when they’ll repeat this drill all over again!

The problems: (1) The conservative House Freedom Caucus will oppose any CR which doesn’t include its priorities, which are basically dead ends; and (2) the Biden Administration wants to couple disaster relief funds and more aid for Ukraine with any CR. Meanwhile, there are side conversations about a possible impeachment inquiry, the health of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and many other issues.

On a more positive note, WineAmerica Director Mario Mazza was able to directly present our priorities for the next Farm Bill to the Chair of the House Agriculture Committee (GT Thompson, R-PA) and Rep. Nick Longworthy (R-NY) at a recent hearing. Mario was the perfect spokesperson since the Mazza family has wineries in both Pennsylvania and New York, where he is Vice President and General Manager of Mazza Wines/5&20 Spirits & Brewing.

WineAmerica Board member Mario Mazza converses with House Agriculture Chairman GT Thompson and Rep. Nick Longworthy at a recent Farm Bill listening session  

FWC and DtC

My longtime friend Pete Downs, President of Family Winemakers of California (FWC), kindly reminded me that in my recent writings about the evolution of Direct-to-Consumer shipping I neglected to mention the vital role of that group. My bad, and I apologize.

FWC was in fact a catalyst in first organizing an overall industry effort to achieve DtC interstate shipping. It was also deeply involved in the planning, execution and funding of the overall DtC effort, including the pivotal legal strategy which resulted in the landmark Granholm decision. The selection of special counsel Ken Starr for strategy development and of Stanford Law Professor Kathleen Sullivan to argue the case were key decisions. And funding the case all the way to the Supreme Court wasn’t cheap.

The DtC success involved many people and organizations, and FWC was certainly among the most influential, with Pete in the middle of the fray. After a decades-long career as a superb winemaker and government affairs representative for top California wineries, he could have retired years ago, but his commitment to the wine industry is too strong. The fact that he recently received the Rich Smith Award of Excellence for “passion, commitment, collaboration” is a reflection of the high esteem in which he is held.

Thanks to him and to Family Winemakers of California for their past successes and current initiatives on behalf of California wineries.