These Legislative Efforts Could Impact Wineries

WineAmerica, the national association of American wineries, has shared its legislative agenda for 2021, detailing what it plans to push for on the wine industry’s behalf.

Vice President of Government Affairs Michael Kaiser said the advocacy group was off to a strong start this year, with $28.6 billion of Restaurant Act funds included in the American Rescue Plan, although WineAmerica is seeking a total of $120 billion. 

Other 2021 priorities include immigration reform, tariff elimination, Farm Bill development, music licensing transparency, and other issues:

  • Restaurants Act Funding: This bipartisan bill provides grants to eating and drinking establishments that have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Winery and distillery tasting rooms, as well as beer taprooms are eligible for the grants. The bill specifies that the funds may be used for all expenses related to food service and business operation. To date, $25 billion has been included in President Biden’s America Rescue Plan initiative, but the stand-alone bill calls for $120 billion. The Senate increased the funding in their version of the American Rescue Plan to $28.6 billion. The American Rescue Plan was passed by the House in late February 2021, with the Senate following in March. It was signed into law in mid-March 2021. 
  • Agricultural Labor: Skilled migrant workers are vital to the winegrowing industry in many parts of the country, and uncertainty surrounding their status and availability has persisted.. In mid February the first comprehensive reform bill was introduced. Two weeks later the Farm Workforce Modernization Act was introduced. A version of that bill passed the House in 2019, but was not taken up in the Senate. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act modernizes the H-2A program, which many wineries and grape growing operations use.
  • Tariff Elimination: WineAmerica opposes any tariffs on any wines flowing in any direction, stating in its report that tariffs distort the wine market, and hurt everyone involved in it from producers to importers, wholesalers, retailers, restaurants, and consumers. 
  • Farm Bill Development: Work has already begun on the next five-year Farm Bill is slated to be passed in 2023. The Farm Bill is the largest and most important agricultural legislation, and for the winegrowing industry it includes substantial funding for research, export promotion, value added grants, and other initiatives.
  • Regulatory Issues: The new administration brings a pause in new federal regulations, so the TTB and other agencies are expected to start releasing their notices of proposed rulemakings in the early spring.

Skim the entire WineAmerica 2021 Governmental Affairs book here.

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