Current Issues & Policies

At any moment there are dozens of bills in state and federal legislatures that could affect your winery. While they vary in region and in scope, many fall under specific policy categories.

Read our policy positions and learn more about the major federal issues facing the American wine industry. These positions outline the history behind the issues, the significance of the possible changes and the stance WineAmerica has taken on the subject.

To provide you with context, there are separate documents on WineAmerica’s Government Affairs Process, Government Affairs Achievements, and 2022 Legislative Agenda, followed by detail on the major issues.

Vineyardists grow grapes. Vintners make wine. WineAmerica produces policy.

Public policy is WineAmerica’s “product”. Everything we do is aimed at improving the business climate for American wineries, just as growers seek to produce the best grapes and winemakers the finest wines. As in those cases, government affairs involves a process that is complex, dynamic and essential to understand in order to achieve success. 

This document describes the government affairs process, some of the many past successes that WineAmerica has achieved for the wine industry, and some of the issues now on the table.

Policy Development: WineAmerica develops its legislative agenda and policy positions through staff working with a Government Affairs Committee consisting of board member wineries and some non-board member wineries from around the country. The focus is on prioritizing issues based on their impact on the American wine industry nationwide. 

Policy Execution: Michael Kaiser leads the government affairs efforts, with support as needed from Tara Good and Jim Trezise. Public policy advocacy requires intense communication with many different constituencies—WineAmerica members and leadership, beverage alcohol coalition partners, Administration officials, Capitol Hill staff, and others. The legislative process is very dynamic, with frequent changes in situations, so regular and reliable communication is vital. WineAmerica staff and Government Affairs Committee members hold weekly updates on conference calls, with a longer monthly call involving additional committee members, and to provide more details. 

Grassroots Support: WineAmerica has a unique asset: the State and Regional Associations Advisory Council (SRAAC) comprising over 40 state and regional winery trade associations from around the country. When the time comes to generate constituent support for legislation, WineAmerica asks its SRAAC members to contact their Senators and Representatives. Winery members are also directly asked to contact their legislators at critical times.

Beverage Alcohol Coalition: WineAmerica works closely with the Wine Institute (a California association with national reach) and several trade associations representing the beer, cider, mead, and spirits sectors. This coalition was crucial in securing passage of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA), which lowered excise taxes on all alcohol beverages. This group also organized several “Day of Action” virtual lobbying initiatives which in one day resulted in over 13,000 businesses making 37,000 contacts via text, email or phone. In addition to WineAmerica and the Wine Institute, beverage alcohol coalition partners include the American Cider Association, American Craft Spirits Association, American Mead Makers Association, Beer Institute, Brewers Association and the Distilled Spirits Council. WineAmerica is also a member of different coalitions revolving around agricultural policy, music licensing, tariffs and trade, and other issue areas. Coalitions are vital in advancing legislation. 

Key Policy Connections

WineAmerica’s national scope and broad-based leadership provides key connections with Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle. A few examples just from our Board of Directors:

  • Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY)—Scott Osborn, Fox Run Vineyards, NY WineAmerica Vice Chair
  • Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR)—Michelle Kaufmann, Stoller Wine Estates
  • Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA)—Marty Clubb, L’Ecole No. 41, Walla Walla
  • Senator Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)—Maria Chantal-Dalese, Chateau Chantal, MI
  • Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA), Chair, Congressional Wine Caucus—Debra Dommen, Treasury Wine Estates, CA, WineAmerica Chair
  • Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Co-chair, Congressional Wine Caucus—Ryan Pennington, Chateau Ste. Michelle, WA, WineAmerica Government Affairs Chair

WineAmerica also has an unparalleled grassroots network with our State and Regional Association Advisory Council. The  40+ state and regional winery trade associations allow us to have personal connections in the majority of Senate and House offices. 


Government Affairs Committee:

Ryan Pennington, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, CA, OR, WA (Chair)

Steve Bate, New York Wine Policy Institute

Chris Brundrett, William Chris Vineyards, TX

Marie Chantal-Delese, Chateau Chantal Winery, MI

Marty Clubb, L’Ecole No. 41, WA

George Christie, Saini Vineyards, CA

Moya Shatz Dolsby, Idaho Wine Commission

Debra Dommen, Treasury Wine Estates, CA

Dave Fussel, Duplin Winery, FL, NC, SX

Dana Huber, Huber’s Orchard & Winery, IN

Joe Juniper, Vermillion Valley Vineyards, OH

Michelle Kaufmann, Stoller Wine Group, OR

Ed Matovcik, Constellation Brands, CA

Mario Mazza, Mazza Vineyards, PA

Josh McDonald, Washington Wine Institute

Max McFarland, Mac’s Creek Vineyards and Winery, NE

Roxanne Myers, Lost Oak Winery, TX

Scott Osborn, Fox Run Vineyards, NY

Erica Paolicelli, Three Brothers Winery, NY

Garrett Portra, Carlson Vineyards, CO

Devin Rhinerson, Napa Valley Vintners, CA

Max Rohn, Wolffer Estate, NY

Major Money Saving Measures

Here is a small sampling of some key measures which WineAmerica has achieved:

  • Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (2017), reducing federal excise taxes for wineries of all sizes
  • Repeal of Bond Requirements for small producers
  • Repeal of the annual Special Occupational Tax ($500-$1000 per year) which was created to pay for the Civil War 
  • Creation of the Small Producer Tax Credit (1991) which protected small wineries from an excise tax increase from 17 cents to $1.07 per gallon by offering a 90 cent per gallon credit

WineAmerica’s advocacy over the years has saved American wineries millions of dollars. For example, since 1991 the Small Producer Tax Credit has saved small wineries 90 cents per gallon, with another 10 cents now added under the 2017 Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA), bringing the total to $1.00 per gallon in savings since small wineries are now paying only 7 cents instead of $1.07. 

The crowning achievement of WineAmerica’s recent government affairs work was the permanence of the CBMTRA. First enacted at the end of 2017 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, reduced excise tax rates went into effect on January 1, 2018 but were scheduled to expire on December 31, 2019. A one-year extension made December 31, 2020 the new deadline while WineAmerica worked with beverage coalition partners to have permanence of the CBMTRA included in the year-end Covid relief bill.

The CBMTRA provides tax credits for wineries of all sizes according to the following formula:

—$1.00 per gallon for the first 30,000 gallons produced

—$0.90 per gallon for gallons 30,001 to 130,000

—$0.53 per gallon for gallons 130,001 to 650,000 

The tax benefits are particularly large for wines between 14% and 16% alcohol by volume, as for tax purposes they are now considered table wines. In addition, the tax credits may also be applied to sparkling wines. Add to those annual savings the ones from the repeal of bond requirements and repeal of the Special Occupational Tax, and the result is that a 10,000-gallon winery is now saving $11,000 each year.

Savor the Savings: By contrast, the annual WineAmerica dues for wineries producing 10,000 or fewer gallons is only $500—or 1/22nd of the annual combined savings. This modest investment lets WineAmerica staff keep working for you.

United States Postal Service Shipping

The Issue: Currently 47 states and Washington, DC allow some form of direct-to-consumer (DTC) wine shipment through common carriers, such as FedEx and UPS. In each case, the wine producer is required to have the proper permitting in each state, and is required to pay sales tax on DTC orders. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been prohibited by federal law from shipping beverage alcohol through the mail, and legislation has been introduced to correct that. 

Wine Industry Impact: This bill could bring substantial benefits to American wineries by providing more competition among shipping companies and expanding the geographical areas where wine could be shipped. 

WineAmerica Position: WineAmerica has tacitly supported the USPS Shipping Equity Act when it has been introduced in previous Congresses. The bill has never had a real chance of passage, but that was before the COVID-19 pandemic. The increased demand for direct-to-consumer wine shipments and the need for postal reform have increased the chances for passage. WineAmerica supports the current version of the USPS Shipping Equity Act and will advocate for its passage

Background: The 21st Amendment established that each state, plus the federal government, is responsible for the regulation of alcohol. Additionally, there are safeguards producers must take to insure that the individual receiving the shipment is 21 or older. The state level regulation of direct-to-consumer alcohol shipments has proven to be very effective. There have been virtually no cases of alcohol being shipped to a minor, and the safeguards in place to prevent it have been shown to work. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased demand for direct-to-consumer wine shipping. This demand, paired with the USPS’s current financial crisis, has led to a renewed desire to allow USPS to direct ship alcohol. It is estimated that opening beverage alcohol shipping to the USPS could unlock up to $180 million in revenue. This is by no means a fix to the USPS’s economic problems, but an untapped revenue stream. 

The direct-to-consumer wine shipping market has increased exponentially over the last ten years, and especially in the last year due to Covid. The alcohol industry collectively contributes over $20 billion in annual tax revenue to state and local governments via sales and excise taxes on beverage alcohol, with a major portion of that through taxes collected via direct-to-consumer shipping. 

Congress has introduced bills to allow the USPS to legally ship alcohol for many years now. The perennial bill is the United States Postal Service Equity Act, which was introduced by now-retired formerCongresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), who sat on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which has jurisdiction over the USPS. The bill never previously had much traction in the House, but the need for postal reform has created some momentum on the issue.

The USPS Shipping Equity Act would allow USPS to ship alcoholic beverages directly from licensed producers and retailers to consumers over the age of 21, in accordance with state and local shipping regulations. This bill will also expand access to consumers for direct-to-consumer shipments. While USPS ships to every household in the nation, private carriers do not, especially in many rural areas. Right now, there are Americans who do not have access to direct-to-consumer alcohol shipments, though they may be legal under their state’s law, because only the Postal Service delivers packages to their door.

There has been some concern (including from WineAmerica) on the ability of the USPS to ship alcohol, but there are safeguards in place at the producer level that would mitigate those concerns, such as age gating on winery websites, and the adult signature requirement.

USPS Shipping Equity Act does not change:

State and local federal excise tax collection and regulation of beverage alcohol. Beverage alcohol producers contribute over $20 billion in annual tax revenue to state and local governments through sales and excise taxes. This legislation does not make any changes to federal excise tax collection, nor does it inhibit state and local authority in regulating beverage alcohol.

Federal excise tax collection and regulation of beverage alcohol. At the federal level, beverage alcohol remains a highly regulated and highly taxed industry with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) serving as the industry’s lead regulator

Strong safeguards to prevent underage consumption of alcohol by minors. Safeguards like identification checks are critical to preventing minors from purchasing or obtaining beverage alcohol – no matter how it is purchased.

The latest version of the USPS Shipping Equity Act was introduced by Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) on May 25, 2023.

The Issue: The wine industry and the larger beverage alcohol industry is one of the most regulated industries in the United States. The 21st Amendment to the Constitution implemented the current regulatory system that includes different laws and regulations for each state, as well as federal regulation of the industry. There are also different rules for each commodity.

Wine Industry Impact: Many wineries are small, family run and owned businesses. They have to navigate through local, state and federal regulations and rules. It can be quite cumbersome and confusing. 

WineAmerica Position: WineAmerica works to create a more “user friendly” regulatory environment for the American wine industry. We interface with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) on a regular basis. We also work on our members’ behalf with the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other federal agencies. WineAmerica submits comments regularly to federal agencies on behalf of our winery members and the wine industry as a whole.

Background: In July 2021 President Biden issued an Executive Order intent on promoting competition in the American economy. The order establishes a White House Competition Council to oversee the administrative implementation of the policies established by this executive order. According to the executive order, “The Council shall coordinate, promote, and advance Federal Government efforts to address overconcentration, monopolization, and unfair competition in or directly affecting the American economy.”

The White House Competition Council is led by the Director of the National Economic Council and  also consists of a combination of Cabinet secretaries and heads of various independent federal agencies. Each agency will work to develop its own plan of action to address the concerns of this executive order. The Secretary of the Treasury is tasked with this for the Treasury Department, including regulation of beverage alcohol and the TTB. 

The text below explicitly outlines the scope of this executive order in relation to the beverage alcohol industry. 

To protect the vibrancy of the American markets for beer, wine, and spirits, and to improve market access for smaller, independent, and new operations, the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Chair of the FTC, not later than 120 days after the date of this order, shall submit a report to the Chair of the White House Competition Council, assessing the current market structure and conditions of competition, including an assessment of any threats to competition and barriers to new entrants, including:

       (i) any unlawful trade practices in the beer, wine, and spirits markets, such as certain exclusionary, discriminatory, or anticompetitive distribution practices, that hinder smaller and independent businesses or new entrants from distributing their products;

       (ii)   patterns of consolidation in production, distribution, or retail beer, wine, and spirits markets; and

       (iii)  any unnecessary trade practice regulations of matters such as bottle sizes, permitting, or labeling that may unnecessarily inhibit competition by increasing costs without serving any public health, informational, or tax purpose.

  (k)  To follow up on the foregoing assessment, the Secretary of the Treasury, through the Administrator of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, shall, not later than 240 days after the date of this order, consider:

       (i) initiating a rulemaking to update the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s trade practice regulations;  

       (ii)   rescinding or revising any regulations of the beer, wine, and spirits industries that may unnecessarily inhibit competition; and

       (iii)  reducing any barriers that impede market access for smaller and independent brewers, winemakers, and distilleries.

What does this mean for wine? It could mean quite a lot. The first two clauses deal with the distribution of alcohol by the wholesale tier. There has been a lot of consolidation in the wholesale tier and that has led to increased difficulty for smaller or newer producers to enter the wholesale and retail market. The regulation of those markets has largely been left to the states and this could lead to increased federal oversight. The third clause is something the TTB has already been examining internally. In the last few years we have seen the labeling and permit systems streamlined, and the TTB has opened up the standards of fill for wine and spirits, and plans to allow for more in the near future. 

The last three clauses direct the TTB to fully examine all of their regulations regarding the distribution of alcohol. The last clause in particular stands out as it could allow the federal government to look into state- level barriers to market, which. This could include impediments to direct shipping. Regardless, this executive order could have wide-ranging impacts on the way alcohol is sold here in the United States.

On February 28 and 29, 2024, as announced in Notice No. 232, TTB held two virtual listening sessions to receive input from the public on labeling of wine, distilled spirits, and malt beverages to disclose per-serving alcohol and nutritional information, major food allergens, and/or ingredients. These listening sessions were intended to engage the public, including consumers, public health stakeholders, and industry members of all sizes, and facilitate the public’s ability to provide input to inform rulemaking.

The TTB will now begin the process of reviewing the public comments for Notice 232. We expect this to take at least two to three months (a conservative estimate) for review. Once that is complete, they will decide whether or not to proceed with the formal rulemaking process, which will be quite lengthy. We expect there to be three separate and distinct proposals.

  1. Ingredient Labeling: First up could be the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for ingredient labeling. This perhaps more than any of the other topics raises the most questions. What will need to be listed? What is an ingredient? We expect to be able to answer those questions in the ANPRM. This is an advanced notice because the TTB has never proposed ingredients be listed on an alcohol beverage label before. That means there will be two rounds of comments. For a proposal of this significance, they usually allow a three month comment period. We will request an extension that will more than likely be granted. This will take the comment period up to six months total. The TTB will then take at least three months to review the comments and then decide to proceed with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).
  2. Nutrition Information and Serving Facts: This will be a NPRM. The reason is that way back in 2007 the TTB put out an ANPRM on this topic and already went through that process. The biggest question here is if there will be a product testing requirement, which we will request not be required. Again, the six-month comment period will apply here.
  3. Allergen Labeling: This will also be a NPRM since it was also proposed back in 2007. The biggest question here is what will be required to be disclosed. Will it be anything used in the process of making the wine, or will it just be what is detectable in the finished product? 

As you can see, this will be a lengthy process and any labeling changes will not be coming any time soon. Additionally, there will be a long phase-in process for any new labeling requirements. WineAmerica will also be strongly recommending that they allow for off-label disclosure of any new labeling requirements. There is also the political aspect of these proposals. We are seven months away from the next Presidential election, and if there is a new administration all existing regulatory proposals will be suspended. If President Biden is re-elected that could also happen. There will more than likely be a new Treasury Secretary in a second term, and they will want a complete review. 

The biggest takeaway from all of this is that we are still in the infancy of any new changes in labeling. Regardless, WineAmerica is the only national winery trade association monitoring this on behalf of our members and the rest of the industry. Tell your fellow wineries that we need them to step up and join the organization. This is one of the biggest regulatory changes in years and we need “all hands on deck” to make sure it is done in a way that does not significantly harm the industry. 

The Issue: Many states have either decriminalized the use of cannabis, or allow for medical or recreational consumption, with currently 37 states that allow for medicinal use, and an additional 17 states that allow for recreational use. While there is not yet formal legislation, there is significant support to legalize and decriminalize cannabis on a federal level.

Wine Industry Impact: The potential decriminalization and legalization of recreational cannabis use could have a wide range of impacts on the American wine industry affecting the areas of agriculture, production, tourism and taxes

WineAmerica Position: WineAmerica has not taken a formal position on the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis. We continually monitor the Congressional efforts on the issue and discuss its status and implications with relevant stakeholders

Background: The use and possession of cannabis is illegal under federal law for any purpose, by way of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA). Under the CSA, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I substance, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use – thereby prohibiting even medical use of the drug.

The discrepancy between state and federal laws has led to a considerable amount of confusion about the legality of cannabis. From banking to distribution and taxation, the federal government has not taken a formal role in the enforcement and regulation of cannabis possession and consumption. That looks to possibly change with the current Congress.

Many of the regions where cannabis is grown in the United States overlap with where a large portion of wine grapes are grown. The marijuana plant requires different care than a grapevine, including the use of certain pesticides and herbicides that could potentially damage wine grapes if they were to become exposed. Additionally, there is a significant lack of regulation (particularly at the federal level) for cannabis growth. 

From a marketing standpoint, the cannabis industry has looked to the example of the wine industry. They would like to develop appellations of origin and agritourism marketing programs in the same vein as the wine industry. The increased use of recreational cannabis could also encroach on the consumer market share wine enjoys. 

The regulation of cannabis at the federal level will also directly impact the regulation of wine and other beverage alcohol products as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is the likely agency to tax and regulate the industry.

There have been many false starts to federal decriminalization and legalization of cannabis. With the Democratic controlled House and Senate and a Democrat in the White House, there was a realization that it could happen in 2022, but that was not the case. The House has passed a few pieces of legislation over the years, such as the Safe Banking Act that would legitimize the banking industry for cannabis, as well as more comprehensive bills. Currently in the Senate the push for legalization is being driven by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism Chair Cory Booker (D-NJ). They did introduce a bill in the summer of 2022, but it did not gain any traction.

Policy Proposals: The main Senate sponsors  did introduce a comprehensive bill in 2022, which was based on a proposal that was unveiled in 2021. 

The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), created a formula for decriminalization and  legalization on the federal level that addresses certain details not yet seen in other cannabis proposals.

Why should the wine industry care about this? Beyond the agricultural issues that cannabis and grapes have, which are primarily state-level matters, there will be some regulatory overlap with how cannabis is taxed and regulated if it were to become legal under this proposal. When the discussion draft was circulated to certain stakeholders last summer, WineAmerica submitted comments and the proposal, as written, should allow for us to be neutral on the bill. 

Some of the provisions of interest to us are:

  • If legalized at the federal level, the bill transfers cannabis regulation from the Drug Enforcement Agency to be split between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)
  • The TTB would regulate permitting and tax collection for cannabis producers, the FDA would regulate labeling and advertising for cannabis products
  • The Federal Alcohol Administration Act is to be amended to allow for the regulation of cannabis at the federal level. It DOES NOT change any of the alcohol language
  • It directs the FDA to devise a federal cannabis impairment standard
  • It establishes federal excise tax rates for cannabis production and sales
  • $100,000,000 in extra funds are provided to TTB to regulate the cannabis industry

This bill did not gain any legislative traction in 2023. It is unclear what its status will be in the new Congress. Regardless of that, the Biden Administration has commuted the sentence of all individuals that have been charged with Federal crimes related to cannabis possession. The Administration is also examining the removal of cannabis from the listing of “schedule 1” narcotics.

Conclusion: While WineAmerica does not have a formal position on cannabis legalization at the federal level, it is essential that we are involved in the process. If the TTB does become the primary regulator of the industry we will need to work to maintain their ability to effectively regulate the alcohol industry. There is also the myriad of state and local level challenges that this process will face going forward. WineAmerica will continue to monitor this issue as it progresses in 2024 and beyond.

The Issue: The Farm Bill is once again up for authorization. It is one of the most consequential pieces of legislation that WineAmerica works on every five years. 

Wine Industry Impact: Wine is a value added agricultural product. It is taken from a raw product (grapes) and made into a different product that “adds value” to the cost of the raw product. The Farm Bill is essential to viticulture in America and is always a big ticket agenda item for WineAmerica. While not a terribly exciting issue, it does help the wine and grape industry quite a bit. Below are a few examples. 

  • Crop Insurance: While not perfect for vineyards (some cannot even qualify) this program can help with natural disasters (freeze, fire, flood) and is a lifeline in a time of need.
  • Speciality Crop Block Grants: These grants, funded by the Farm Bill, have helped with marketing and research for the industry. Many wineries, trade associations, universities and state departments of agriculture have applied for and used these grants to help the grape growing and wine industries in their states. Wine grapes are considered a “specialty crop” rather than a row crop.
  • Market Access Program: The MAP program is a federal assistance program that assists with funding for exports. California, New York, Oregon and Washington have all used this program 
  • Research funding: The USDA does a lot of research and part of that is devoted to grape growing. Additionally, in 2024 WineAmerica will be pursuing additional research funding for accurate vineyard statistics.

WineAmerica Position: The Farm Bill is one of the top domestic policy priorities for WineAmerica, and 2024 will be no different. WineAmerica lobbies on the Farm Bill in three distinct ways, much like most issues we work on. As a small trade association we must rely on others to help get our message out.

  1. Direct Lobbying: WineAmerica staff meets directly with Congressional staff and Members and outlines our needs for the bill. Starting in January WineAmerica will meet with the staff of every Member of Congress and Senator on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. We will then broaden our reach to the rest of Congress.
  2. Grassroots Lobbying: WineAmerica will call on its members to reach out to their Members and Senate offices. Constituent lobbying will often have more impact than a trade association.
  3. Coalition Work: WineAmerica is an active member of the Speciality Crop Farm Bill Alliance, a group of trade associations working together to advance the needs of speciality crops on the Hill.

Background: The Farm Bill is what is known as authorizing legislation. It “authorizes” what the Department of Agriculture can spend on certain programs each year. It is then up to the Congress to fund the programs each year through the appropriations process. The Farm Bill must pass every five years (roughly) and if Congress cannot get it done by the end of the federal fiscal year (September 30) what is known as a continuing resolution must be passed to keep the various USDA programs contained in the Farm Bill authorized. The last Farm Bill was passed and signed into law in 2018. It was known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The two committees that primarily work on the Farm Bill are the House Agriculture Committee and the Senate Agriculture committee. 

There is a six-part process to the passage of the Farm Bill, like most other pieces of legislation. Since the Farm Bill is so large it actually does follow the traditional process for how a bill is passed, rather than get attached to another piece of legislation. 

  1. Hearings: The House and Senate Agriculture Committees (and their subcommittee) usually start holding hearings on the Farm Bill the year before it must pass. This will include hearings in DC, as well as what are known as field hearings, which are held all over the country.
  2. Drafting and Mark-up: After the Committees have held hearings and hear from stakeholders, they will draft the bill. Both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees will draft up versions of the bill, which may have subtle differences. They will then vote on them and pass them out of committee.
  3. Floor Debate and Votes: Once the Committees have passed their bills, the full House and Senate will have a debate on the bills, amendments will be offered and eventually the hope is that they both pass the bill. 
  4. Conference Committee: Once the House and Senate each pass their bills, it will go to a Conference Committee, which will consist of members of both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. It is here where the differences in the bills will be reconciled into one bill both sides can agree to. 
  5. Final Debate and Passage: The reconciled bill is then sent to the full House and full Senate for debate and passage.
  6. Presidential Signature: Once both the House and Senate have passed the final version of the bill, it will be sent to the President for his signature.

What is in the Farm Bill? 

The  Farm Bill contains chapters or titles covering all aspects of agriculture. There were twelve in the last Farm Bill, and we expect the same twelve to be in the next Farm Bill. They are:

Title 1: Commodities.  The Commodities title covers price and income support for the farmers who raise widely-produced and traded non-perishable crops, like corn, soybeans, wheat, and rice – as well as dairy and sugar. The title also includes agricultural disaster assistance.

Title 2: Conservation.  The Conservation title covers programs that help farmers implement natural resource conservation efforts on working lands like pasture and cropland as well as land retirement and easement programs.  

Title 3: Trade. The Trade title covers food export subsidy programs and international food aid programs.

Title 4: Nutrition.  The Nutrition title covers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP] (formerly known as food stamps) as well as a variety of smaller nutrition programs to help low-income Americans afford food for their families.

Title 5: Credit.  The Credit title covers federal loan programs designed to help farmers access the financial credit (via direct loans as well as loan guarantees and other tools) they need to grow and sustain their farming operations.

Title 6: Rural Development.  The Rural Development title covers programs that help foster rural economic growth through rural business and community development (including farm businesses) as well as rural housing, and infrastructure.

Title 7: Research, Extension, and Related Matters.  The Research title covers farm and food research, education, and extension programs designed to support innovation, from federal labs and state university-affiliated research to vital training for the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

Title 8: Forestry.  The Forestry title covers forest-specific conservation programs that help farmers and rural communities to be stewards of forest resources.

Title 9:  Energy.  The Energy title covers programs that encourage growing and processing crops for biofuel, help farmers, ranchers and business owners install renewable energy systems, and support research related to energy.

Title 10: Horticulture. The Horticulture title covers farmers market and local food programs, funding for research and infrastructure for fruits, vegetables and other horticultural crops, and organic farming and certification programs.

Title 11: Crop Insurance.  The Crop Insurance title provides premium subsidies to farmers and subsidies to the private crop insurance companies who provide federal crop insurance to farmers to protect against losses in yield, crop revenue, or whole farm revenue. The title also provides USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) with the authority to research, develop, and modify insurance policies.

Title 12: Miscellaneous.  The Miscellaneous title is a bit of a catch-all.  The current title brings together six advocacy and outreach areas, including beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers, agricultural labor safety and workforce development, and livestock health.

The Farm Bill is not obligated to have the same titles as the 2018 Farm Bill, but we don’t expect Congress to stray too far from these titles in 2024. However we may see cost increases this year, bringing the cost up to $1 billion. The current Farm Bill was extended for one year through September 30, 2024. We have yet to see new language for the bill.

WineAmerica continues to advocate on behalf of small businesses on the issues of music licensing on Capitol Hill. Last year, we saw a win when the Department of Justice completed a multi-year review of the ASCAP and BMI Consent Decrees, ruling that no changes were to be made. This preserved a business right to a “blanket license” upon request; the “similarly situated” clause, stipulating that similarly situated businesses would be charged the same; and a business’s right to contract directly with a singer/songwriter.

Often a “small” bill will be introduced with the intention of it being “folded into” a larger bill. Such is the case with the Agritourism Bill. 

Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) introduced the bill that would create an Office of Agritoursm within the USDA . Congresswoman Wexton’s district is home to many breweries, distilleries and wineries in the DC suburbs, and she is the Chair of the House Agritourism conference. The Office of Agritourism would be primarily tasked with promotional work, but would also be able to distribute federal grants. The idea behind the bill is to lay the groundwork for including a similar provision in the next Farm Bill. Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA) has joined the bill as the initial Republican co-sponsor. 

The Accelerating the Growth of Rural Innovation and Tourism Opportunities to Uphold Rural Industries and Sustainable Marketplaces (AGRITOURISM) Act. The bill would create an Office of Agritourism at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to serve as a dedicated voice for agritourism businesses in the federal government and to consolidate information on federal resources available to agritourism business owners. 

Agritourism is a successful and expanding industry throughout the country. According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, agritourism-related income jumped from $202 million in 2002 to $949 million in 2017 — a nearly 370% increase. In communities like those represented by Rep. Wexton, agritourism has enabled small farmers to expand their businesses and increase profits, which has boosted local economies while maintaining the rural character of the region.

The AGRITOURISM Act is supported by the North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association, Inc. (International Agritourism Association) and WineAmerica. As we look ahead to the 2023 Farm Bill, this will be a priority for WineAmerica.

USDA Vineyard Data Research Funding

Grapes are grown in all 50 states for wine, grape juice, table grapes, and raisins, and are one of America’s highest value crops, and yet there are no current, comprehensive, credible statistics on vineyard acreage, production or crop value. WineAmerica’s National Economic Impact Studies of the Wine Industry in 2017 and 2022 show that the lack of reliable vineyard data substantially undervalues the grape industry’s contributions to America’s agricultural economy and its potential development. Wine is the ultimate value-added product, and we need to accurately quantify just how much the growing of wine grapes adds to the American economy. The 2022 study showed a $276 billion total economic benefit to the economy from the wine industry, but that is likely undervalued due to the lack of reliable vineyards statistics.

As part of the $1.7 trillion Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed in December 2022, WineAmerica was able to take an important first step in securing funding for this important project. Thanks to a provision inserted by Senate Majority Leader Schumer (after a meeting with WineAmerica) the National Agriculture Statistics Service of USDA is encouraged to reinstate the 5-year Vineyard and Orchard Acreage Study and resume data collection and reporting so grape, wine, and juice producers can remain competitive and respond to challenges in the industry.NASS is the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the United States Department of Agriculture which used to conduct such surveys until budget cuts eliminated them over a decade ago. Our two recent National Economic Impact Surveys of the Wine Industry sponsored by WineAmerica have illustrated the need for this study. 

This is only a first step, as the omnibus language only “encourages” NASS to restart the survey. To that end WineAmerica is taking the lead in asking Congress and the Administration to include in the 2023 Farm Bill the authorization and funding for the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service to conduct a nationwide survey of vineyards by state, including total acreage, different grape varieties, varietal uses, relative crop value, full-time equivalent employment, and other measures. At the same time, we are going to interface with USDA to encourage them to follow the bill language and restart the study. 

The next Farm Bill provides a great opportunity to restore adequate funding and better direction to the USDA so that the nation’s agricultural bounty can be better documented, and agriculture could be better represented as an important contributor to the American economy.

The Issue: The United States has needed comprehensive immigration and agricultural labor reform for many years. The last major piece of immigration reform legislation was passed during the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was president. There have been false starts on this issue during the Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump Administrations. The  Biden Administration and the Democratically controlled Congress offered the best chance of reform for the first time in nearly ten years, but the new divided Congress brings uncertainty at best

Wine Industry Impact: The American wine industry has long used a largely immigrant labor force to pick its grapes and maintain vineyards and other winery operations. Wineries and vineyard operations have long used guest worker programs, such as the H2-A program, but the application process and residency requirements can be onerous and are just not practical for many small producers. In many cases vineyards will resort to hiring labor without validating their legal status. 

WineAmerica Position: WineAmerica has long supported the need for comprehensive immigration reform. We have been long time members of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and the Agriculture Coalition of Labor Reform. While primarily a producer association, WineAmerica does represent a vast array of grape growing operations.

Background: There have been several stops and starts at the Congressional level to pass comprehensive immigration reform. In 2021 we thought we saw the best chance for comprehensive reform was last year before the 2022 Midterm elections. 

In June 2023, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act was introduced with bi-partisan support in the House. he House passed previous versions of the bill with Republican support in the 116th and 117th Congresses, but they were not taken up in the Senate either time. On April 4, 2024 Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) introduced the Affordable and Secure Food Act, that would streamline the H-2A visa program for foreign farmworkers and create a pathway to permanent residency for those workers, as well as create a new status for undocumented farmworkers. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and other committee members are co-sponsoring the bill.

The TTB has also issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on trade practices. This is related to the Biden Administration’s 2021 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. The Treasury Department issued a report on competition in the alcohol marketplace in February, and this ANPR is an extension of that. 

The TTB is seeking public comment to assist them in determining whether to proceed with developing specific regulatory proposals related to the Federal Alcohol Administration Act’s exclusive outlet, tied house, commercial bribery and consignment sales prohibitions. The TTB would like to hear from the industry, as well as from the general public. The ANPR is focused on some general topics, as well as more specific issues. The three main questions the TTB would like input on are:

  1. Update trade practice regulations. How might TTB update the trade practice regulations to clarify and/or modernize the categories of conduct that may result in exclusion or threaten retailer independence? How might TTB update the trade practice regulations to clarify and/or modernize any exceptions to those categories? Is there exclusionary conduct the current trade practice regulations overlook?
  2. Trade practice regulations and competition. How might TTB update the trade practice regulations to authorize more practices that would not result in exclusion or threaten retailer independence, including any limits on those practices? How might TTB update the trade practice regulations to focus more on practices that have greater effect on the market?
  3. Digital marketplace. How might TTB update the trade practice regulations to take into account current marketplace realities, especially in light of the rise of digital marketing strategies ( e.g., digital coupons, instant rebate coupons, and virtual retail shelf space in digital retail storefronts where products may be purchased online)?

Additionally the TTB is asking for input on sixteen more specific topics related to trade practices. 

  • Category Management
  • Shelf Plans
  • Slotting Allowances Arrangements
  • Interest in a Retail License or Property
  • Third Party Companies
  • Consumer Specialty Items and Point of Sale Advertising Materials
  • Tied House Payment Terms
  • Consignment Sales Payment Terms Safe Harbor
  • Definition of a Trade Buyer
  • Private Label Arrangements
  • Brand Sharing with Retail Establishments
  • Sponsorships
  • Activities Which Result in Exclusion or Place Retailer Independence at Risk
  • Criteria for Determining a Risk to Retailer Independence
  • Third Party Contracts

The Issue: Every five years the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have published the US Dietary Guidelines. Since the first edition of the Dietary Guidelines in 1980—and every iteration since—the U.S. government has advised adults who choose to consume alcohol to do so in moderation. The DGAs also include guidance for those who should not drink alcohol at all (such as those who are pregnant or under the legal drinking age). The guidelines provide advice from the federal government on how many alcoholic beverages a person can consume each day and be reasonably assured there will be no significant health consequences. The current guideline is two drinks (a drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of spirits) per day for an adult man, and one drink per day for an adult woman.

Wine Industry Impact: Wine is best consumed in moderation and with food. The US Dietary Guidelines do not recommend consumption of alcohol, but they outline what a safe and responsible amount of consumption is. The guidelines allow our industry to promote responsible consumption. 

Background: There is some confusion as to what the guidelines actually mean in terms of safe consumption. As written, the guidelines outline the dangers of alcohol abuse and heavy consumption. They certainly do not recommend alcohol consumption. What they do say is that, if you do consume alcohol, a safe amount is two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women. In reality, many consumers do not drink alcohol every day, and the vast majority of alcohol consumers do consume in a moderate and safe way. But we must stress that it is not a recommendation to drink, it is a guideline for what is safe for people who choose to do so.

In April 2022 it was announced that the alcohol research review would be conducted in a dual track of review at both the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Specifically, the SAMHSA review will be led by the existing Interagency Coordinating Committee for the Prevention of Underage Drinking (ICCPUD), which was established by the Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act (STOP Act) with a mission to “provide resources and information on underage drinking prevention, intervention, treatment, enforcement, and research.” Notably, ICCPUD membership does not include USDA.

While HHS and USDA have confirmed that alcohol recommendations will be included in the 2025-2030 DGAs, it is unclear what this multi-layered process for developing those recommendations will entail. According to the DGA website, the NASEM review will be considered by SAMHSA, as one piece of their review, and SAMHSA will then draft DGA recommendations for adult alcohol use. The NASEM work is being conducted by experts who were publicly nominated and vetted, with a defined scope of research, and offers ongoing opportunities for public comment and stakeholder participation in meetings. In contrast, very little is known about the SAMHSA work.

Nearly two years after the announcement that alcohol would be reviewed separately from the general DGA review, very few details have been provided for the SAMHSA review. For example, no detail has been provided on the scope of work and scientific review protocol, the members and qualifications of the subcommittee/panel tasked with the work, and how their review will interplay with the concurrent NASEM review. Moreover, HHS had been publicly claiming that the SAMHSA work had not begun, yet SAMHSA recently stated that ICCPUD had convened multiple meetings with a technical subcommittee and an external “scientific expert panel” over the last year without any public notice or opportunity for participation.

Wine Industry Position: WineAmerica supports the continued inclusion of alcohol in the 2025-2030 US Dietary Guidelines in their current form. We urge HHS and USDA to ensure an alcohol review process that involves stakeholder input and public comment, and that is transparent, deliberative and science-driven.