Happy 2021 Press Deck Readers!
I am excited to be starting my 5th year at the helm of the Foundation. I am grateful to the industry, supporters of the industry, the Foundation team, and the Foundation Board for supporting me as we have worked together to enhance New York’s reputation as a world class grape and wine region. I also value the opportunity each January to refresh my goals and determinations for the upcoming year. One of my main focuses this year will be to create a fund development plan for the Foundation to ensure the organization’s long-term financial sustainability. COVID reinforced the value of trade associations and their ability to support their members through difficult times, so it is important that we build a resilient organization equipped to effectively serve the industry regardless of any crisis.
2020 finished in furious fashion with significant policy breakthroughs at the federal and state level. Speaking to the value of trade associations, I commend the New York Farm Bureau and WineAmerica for their substantive policy accomplishments. In a 2-1 decision, The Farm Labor Wage Board decided to delay consideration of lowering the 60-hour farm labor overtime threshold. The Farm Bureau effectively rallied its members to attend hearings across the state and on Zoom to speak to how New York farmers value the work of their employees and provide them the ability to earn a good livelihood. Farm Bureau President David Fisher said, “I’d like to thank my fellow wage board members for their time and professionalism and encourage the Department of Labor to continue to work with the farming community to do what is best for our farms and employees. We need each other for agriculture production and our rural economies to flourish.”
WineAmerica, in partnership with other national alcohol beverage associations, succeeded in securing a permeant extension to the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA). WineAmerica also succeeded in securing a change to the standards of fill for wine in cans, prevented unsubstantiated changes to alcohol consumption recommendations in the longstanding Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and obtained clarification from the IRS on PPP deductibility; the IRS guidance now states that any business expenses paid with forgivable PPP loans would be tax deductible.
Senator Schumer also had a hand in many of these federal policy changes that directly benefit our industry. He was especially influential on affecting change on the TTB rules for standards of fill. Senator Schumer visited Fox Run Vineyards in July 2019 to push for new standards of fill regulations so that wine could be sold in the popular 12oz (355ml) cans and 8.4oz (250 ml) “red bull” cans. As a flexible consumer product, cans can go where glass cannot such as to the beach, in concert/stadium concessions, and boating. Also, beer was never restricted to certain sizes, so this puts wine on an even playing field.
As you look back at 2020, please remember the valuable work of trade associations in protecting and enhancing the business climate. Membership in these organization ensures that they have the resources to represent our industry’s interests and advance our priorities.