Home Wine Business Editorial Expert Editorial WineAmerica 2023: New Year, New Congress, New Issues

WineAmerica 2023: New Year, New Congress, New Issues

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Fortunately, issues affecting the wine industry are often below the political fray
and supported by bipartisan coalitions. 

By Jim Trezise

 

Following the installation of a new Congress, the outlook for this year and next has begun taking shape — though, of course, it could also change at any time along the way. Fortunately, WineAmerica has the foresight, experience and contacts to adapt its efforts in protecting and enhancing the business climate for American wine.

The New Political Dynamic

DC has changed. For the past two years, Democrats occupied the White House and controlled both houses of Congress with razor-thin majorities. Threading the needle, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were able to achieve several of the Biden Administration’s priorities, sometimes even on a bipartisan basis.

The White House and Senate remain the same, but the House is now controlled by Republicans, again with a tiny majority for new Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The major issue by far involves the debt ceiling and related budget matters, while various investigations promised by the Republicans may preempt other legislative initiatives.

Fortunately, issues affecting the wine industry are often below the fray and supported by bipartisan coalitions. A great example is the Expanding Agricultural Exports Act (EAEA), already cosponsored in both chambers by bipartisan groups, which would double the amount of funding for the Market Access Program, which provides matching funds for promotion of American agricultural products, including wine, in foreign markets). The California, New York, Oregon and Washington wine industries have benefited greatly from this program for decades, so more funding would boost their success.

In addition, many legislators in key positions represent major wine states, beginning with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Senate Committee Chairs include Patty Murray (D-WA, Appropriations), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI, Agriculture), and Ron Wyden (D-OR, Finance). House Committee Chairs are Kay Granger (R-TX, Appropriations), Jason Smith (R-MO, Ways & Means), and Glenn Thompson (R-PA, Agriculture).

Most important, the Congressional Wine Caucus (CWC) is pushing hard for new members. The CWC was created in 1999 by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and is now co-chaired by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), with both men not only representing major winegrowing regions but being growers themselves. Caucuses are a vital part of legislative success, and the CWC could ideally represent the entire country, since all 50 states produce wine. In its pitch for new members, the CWC cited data from WineAmerica’s National Economic Impact Study. In addition, we and our partners at Wine Institute will assist the CWC in recruiting new members.

WineAmerica Unveils 2020 Legislative Agenda

WineAmerica’s 2023 Government Affairs agenda, a 20-page document available to the public, details a dozen key issues for 2023 along with the organization’s structure and process for determining legislative priorities and positions. Executive Vice President and Director of Government Affairs Michael Kaiser coordinates the process, which includes input from WineAmerica members, its board of directors, and a government affairs committee. In addition, WineAmerica coordinates closely with Wine Institute and, on certain issues, other partners in various coalitions.

The 2022 National Economic Impact Study of the Wine Industry, sponsored by WineAmerica and conducted by John Dunham & Associates, will be a powerful tool for lobbying this year. Not only did it show a $276 billion total impact on the American economy, but it also details the impact in all 50 states, showing that all legislators should have an interest in our issues. 

The top issues for 2023

National Vineyard Survey: There are no current, reliable, comprehensive statistics on vineyard acreage in the United States, even though grapes are one of the highest value fruit crops. Working with Senate Majority Leader Schumer, WineAmerica was able to get authorization to have USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) undertake this vital project.

Farm Bill: Every five years, a massive Farm Bill is negotiated and passed to set priorities for the American agricultural sector. There are several sections that are vital to the grape and wine industry, including research funding, export promotion, value-added grants and disaster assistance. 

USPS Shipping Equity Act: This bill would let the postal service ship wine (plus beer and spirits) to consumers just as FedEx and UPS have been doing for years. Not only would this provide new competition, but it would also extend the reach of DTC to consumers who may not be served by the common carriers.

Nutritional Labeling: The Federal Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) will be considering proposals to require nutritional information and ingredient labeling on wine and other beverage alcohol products. WineAmerica has been surveying the wine industry and will be considering the responses in developing its position at an appropriate time.

 

WineAmerica is the National Association of American Wineries, representing about 500 winery, association and supplier members from across the country. The 2023 Government Affairs Agenda can be viewed here. For additional information, contact Michael Kaiser (mkaiser@wineamerica.org)

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

Jim Trezise

Jim Trezise is president of WineAmerica (WA), the only national wine industry association in the United States. WA is a 500-member strong organization that encourages the growth and development of American wineries and winegrowing through the advancement and advocacy of sound public policy. Membership is encouraged to support the important work of WA, which benefits all U.S. wineries. Go to wineamerica.org for more information.

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