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.”