Home Wine Business Editorial Jim Trezise Emphasizes U.S. Wine Industry’s Growing Need for National Representation

Jim Trezise Emphasizes U.S. Wine Industry’s Growing Need for National Representation

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By Jade Helm

If your winery sells 10,000 gallons of wine, you are saving $11,000 a year and you may not even know why: WineAmerica.

Your annual savings come from three WineAmerica achievements over the years: the Small Producer Tax Credit of 1991, repeal of the Special Occupational Tax in 2004, and repeal of the federal bond requirement in 2017. And now WineAmerica is working to increase savings through the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act.

Powerful groups understand the way to have a voice, to protect their interests, to create a force in their favor is to unify. The pharmaceutical industry has PhRMA. Retirees have AARP. The political power of these groups is tied to strength in numbers, connection to decision makers, vision, and leadership.

US wineries have the opportunity to increase their power as an industry by joining together through WineAmerica. They are on the ground floor with Congress daily and ensure that the American wine industry is top of mind as new issues arise. WineAmerica steps in to influence federal policy when no individual winery or association representing only one state or region could accomplish this kind of advocacy. Nationwide grassroots public policy advocacy is the key.

US wineries now have Jim Trezise, a powerful addition to WineAmerica, in the role of President. “Jim Trezise is a national treasure for the wine industry who is known and respected for his hard work, collegiality, and effectiveness,” said Trent Preszler, Chairman of the WineAmerica Board of Directors and CEO of Bedell Cellars on Long Island.

Trezise accepting the role of President is a coup for the organization and US wineries. “My professional life is all wine,” explains Trezise. His career began in 1982 in New York where he served as Executive Director of the New York State Wine Grape Growers Association, then President of the New York Wine Council, and then created and led the New York Wine & Grape Foundation for 32 years. His work was instrumental to putting New York’s wine industry on the map, increasing the wineries from 40 to over 400, leading the nation in the creation of wine trails, gaining recognition of Finger Lakes Rieslings as among the best in the world, and having New York State named the international Wine Region of the Year in 2014 by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

Trezise has been widely recognized for his leadership in the broader American wine industry, serving on many Boards, judging in numerous wine competitions, and having received eight national awards or other recognition for his many contributions: including most recently The “Grand Award” of the Society of Wine Educators in 2014; one of “The 20 Most Admired People in the American Wine Industry” in 2013 based on a survey by Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine; and the Wine Integrity Award of the Lodi-Woodbridge Wine Commission.

Marty Clubb, owner of L’Ecole No 41 winery in Walla Walla, Washington, who serves as Vice Chair of the WineAmerica Board of Directors said, “Even though Jim has been ‘the New York wine guy’ all these years, his reputation and impact are nationwide, and his leadership will become a magnet for attracting new members to WineAmerica.”

“I was glad to accept the position as President of WineAmerica simply because it is such an important organization with such great potential. I’ve been on the Board and Executive Committee for over 20 years, and now that I am no longer directly involved with the New York wine industry I can devote more time to helping grow WineAmerica,” shares Trezise.

WineAmerica, based in Washington DC, is the only national organization of American wineries. Its basic function is grassroots public policy advocacy on federal issues of importance to American wineries in all 50 states. Advocacy and membership are not only for larger US wineries. Membership costs are on a sliding scale based on production. Savings outweigh the costs by the thousands.

WineAmerica aims to grow membership to include all 50 states to strengthen political force and position the organization as truly an all-American industry. Janie Brooks Heuck, co-owner of Oregon’s Brooks Winery, is heading a Membership and Marketing Committee to communicate to wineries the messages of WineAmerica and develop a formal member recruitment plan. Heuck explains, “The staff at WineAmerica is very seasoned and has great relationships to the Congressional leaders and staffers. The best support we can give is membership in every state and every district.” WineAmerica staff members, Vice Presidents Tara Good and Michael Kaiser, are also working with Meyer and Associates, one of the country’s top agricultural lobbying firms.

Heuck shares the reason her winery not only joined but she now volunteers as a board member. “Our winery was being asked to pay licensing fees for offering live music. We needed more information about these fees so we turned to WineAmerica for help. They were AMAZING.”

Small wineries across the US have been asked by performing rights organizations (PRO’s) to pay fees for playing (or offering live) music at their facilities. Vice President Tara Good of WineAmerica, has taken a proactive role in this issue. Working with ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, a new license was crafted that better serves the wine industry’s needs while ensuring compensation for music creators. WineAmerica will work closely with ASCAP to administer the license to its member businesses and will provide an additional 10% discount to WineAmerica members.

“The new atmosphere in Washington makes it clear that having a strong national organization is more important than ever in protecting winery business interests,” says Trezise. Heuck gives a specific example. “The new budget proposed by the President cuts or eliminates money for the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) which will impact time for COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) and permit approvals, grants for specialty crops which a lot of current wineries and their state associations rely on for funding, as well as export marketing dollars on which wineries and state associations also rely.”

Among other current issues are trade policy, immigration reform, funding for research, and many others. WineAmerica has just successfully influenced a critical amount of cosponsors in the Senate and House of Representatives to co-sponsor the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act. This bill will reduce federal excise taxes on wine, beer, and spirits allowing producers to hire more people, expand production or otherwise fuel the economy.

“There is always going to be a hot button that WineAmerica has tackled or is tackling that will hit home,” explains Heuck. “The work they do protects our industry before we are usually faced with issues.”

For more information on WineAmerica and to learn about members only benefits, visit http://wineamerica.org.

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