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WineAmerica: Managing the Business Climate for Wine

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Editor’s note: Wine Industry Advisor is proud to welcome WineAmerica to its roster of regular contributors. Beginning with this article, the industry’s voice in Washington, D.C. will contribute a monthly column. Before we begin, though, here’s a brief introduction to the whos and whys of the organization.

WineAmerica interacts directly with Congress to move forward legislation that will benefit the wine industry (and the larger alcohol beverage industry). It recently played an important role, along with beverage coalition colleagues, in securing passage of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA), the first federal excise tax reduction since the Repeal of Prohibition and an enormous benefit to wineries of all sizes. 

“We provide comprehensive and balanced information to our membership, board and government affairs committee,” says Jim Trezise, who has been President of WineAmerica for five years, but on its board of directors and executive committee for 25 years prior to that. “We create a consensus on whether to support, oppose or take no position on particular issues.” Upcoming issues WineAmerica is monitoring include the USPS Wine Shipping Bill, an AgriTourism Bill, rulings on Agriculture Labor, a Farm Bill and Music Licensing. 

These topics and more will be addressed in upcoming columns. If you’d like your opinion counted as WA establishes positions on these topics (and others), consider joining this important industry support organization. “WineAmerica could not work to advance the interests of the American wine industry without dues-paying members,” says Trezise. “They are our sole source of revenue.”

Without further ado, here is the debut column:

 

WineAmerica: Managing the Business Climate for Wine

By Jim Trezise

“Wine is liquid food.”

Robert Mondavi’s succinctly eloquent reminder that wine is, first and foremost, a farm product, explains why winegrowers are always talking about climate. After all, you need a good climate to grow good grapes that make fine wine.

You also need a good business climate to grow an industry. That’s WineAmerica’s focus.

There’s a big difference in the two climates. Nature controls the first, humans the second. We react to the first, but act on the second.

Advocacy and Policy

WineAmerica is the National Association of American Wineries, focused on protecting and enhancing the business climate for the American wine industry through grassroots federal public policy advocacy.

Established in 1977 as the Association of American Vintners by a handful of eastern and midwestern visionaries, WineAmerica now has some 500 members from 40 states, including 40 winery trade associations from throughout the country, which represent additional wineries. WineAmerica staff work closely with colleagues at Wine Institute, the California state association with national and international reach, to enhance the effectiveness of both groups on behalf of American wine.

WineAmerica members meet with members of Congress to discuss pending legislation.
WineAmerica members meet with members of Congress to discuss pending legislation.

Saving wineries money is a common theme of WineAmerica’s legislative agenda. Most recently, the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) has reduced federal excise taxes for wineries of all sizes, not just the smaller ones that previously benefited from the Small Producer Tax Credit (enacted in 1991). In between those two achievements, the repeal of the Special Occupational Tax and Bond Requirement added to the annual savings.

As one example, a winery that sells 10,000 gallons in a year saves $11,000 because of these combined measures. And the CBMTRA by itself saves wineries of all sizes lots of money:

  • $30,000 per year for a 30,000-gallon producer
  • $120,000 for a 130,000-gallon winery
  • $430,000 for a 750,000-gallon operation

Boost the Bottom Line

There are also other, less direct ways WineAmerica’s advocacy can boost the bottom line. The United States Department of Agriculture has several programs — the Market Access Program for export promotion, Value-Added Grants, significant funds for research, and others — which benefit our industry. TTB’s revised standards of fill, advocated by WineAmerica, now let producers of canned wines access packaging more cost-effectively. 

WineAmerica’s current legislative priorities, detailed in a 2022 Government Affairs Handbook, include letting the U.S. Postal Service ship wine, supporting a new Agritourism bill, increasing Restaurant Relief Funds, providing input on the five-year Farm Bill, seeking disaster relief for wildfire impacts, monitoring legislation to legalize cannabis, and creating more transparency in music licensing, among other measures.

We Are You

Vice President of Government Affairs Michael Kaiser spearheads our efforts on Capitol Hill, with assistance from myself and Vice President of Development Tara Good, who handles the Music Licensing issue. The legislative priorities reflect the needs of WineAmerica’s members and the guidance of a Government Affairs Committee, along with the Board of Directors, which sets overall policy.

On May 17-18, WineAmerica members from throughout the country will convene in Washington, D.C., to learn about the latest developments, meet with their legislators, and raise a glass or two after a two-year hiatus (because COVID-19 prevented in-person gatherings). These annual fly-ins are vital to getting results in Washington; fortunately, WineAmerica was able to adapt to the virtual reality imposed upon everyone by COVID.

An upcoming highlight will be an updated economic impact study of the American wine industry, which WineAmerica first sponsored in 2017. With five years past, including the two-year COVID pause, it will be interesting to see where the industry stands today. In 2017, the American wine industry contributed $220 billion to the American economy.

WineAmerica has succeeded because of its people — members, board and staff. The members of the 17-person board of directors, including wine industry professionals from all over the country, deserve special credit for the volunteer time and effort they devote to furthering the wine industry’s future.

WineAmerica has a strong base, but more winery members are always welcome. For more information on WineAmerica and how to get involved, visit www.wineamerica.org.

Diversity is our Strength. Unity is our Power.

____________________________________________________

Jim Trezise, president of WineAmerica
Jim Trezise, president of WineAmerica

 Jim Trezise

James (Jim) Trezise has been President of WineAmerica since January 1, 2017 after serving for more than 25 years on the Executive Committee of the organization’s Board of Directors. WineAmerica is the only National Association of American Wineries, headquartered in Washington, D.C., and with a mission to protect and enhance the business climate for the American wine industry through national grassroots public policy advocacy. WineAmerica represents more than 500 winery members from 44 states. Contact him at [email protected]

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