Reforms will help grow farm beverage industry

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces new reforms to ease restrictions on farm wineries. (Credit: Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces new reforms to ease restrictions on farm wineries. (Credit: Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office)

Local wineries and farm breweries are celebrating recent statewide reforms they say will both reduce the financial burden on the local beverage industry and give them more freedom to sell and distribute their products.

Last Thursday, the State Liquor Authority approved several policy revisions aimed at easing restrictions on farm-based beverage producers. The reforms include eliminating certain paperwork, clarifying standards on brand label registrations and the sale of “growlers” for beer and cider, and reducing costs for manufacturers and wholesalers with multiple licenses by allowing them to deliver all their products in one shipment, according to a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

The reforms occurred just two days after the governor hosted the second Beer, Wine, Spirits, and Cider Summit April 8 at the Empire State Plaza convention center in Albany.

The governor announced at the summit that the state will also commit $6 million over the next year to market New York’s wine and beer industry.

Steven Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council, called the reforms “important” for the growth of the industry.

“There were a lot of very positive developments for our industry from this second summit, including some significant legislative changes that will make it much easier for farm-based alcoholic beverage producers and the promise of some additional funding for regional promotion,” Mr. Bate said in a statement. “The meeting provided yet another example of how this governor ‘gets it’ when it comes to the economic contribution of the state’s wine industry and agriculture in general.”

The relaxed laws are also a welcome break for area farm breweries such as Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, which is just months from opening its second location in Peconic.

Brewery co-founder and New York State Brewer’s Association board member Richard Vandenburgh said the reforms will make it easier for small breweries to establish themselves in new markets.

“As a small-business owner on Long Island the support we are getting from the governor’s office to make the very difficult process of growing a business in New York easier is truly appreciated,” Mr. Vandenburgh said. “It is also reassuring that the governor recognizes the increasing positive impact that craft beer has had for our state and local economies.”

Since the first quarter of 2011, state actions that support agricultural producers have contributed to an 83 percent growth in farm-based beverage licenses, according to the governor’s office.

During the summit, Mr. Cuomo also reiterated his commitment to introducing the Craft New York Act. That measure is a more comprehensive set of reforms that would build upon the SLA revisions by allowing farm wineries to consolidate and simplify distilling manufacturing licenses, raise production limits and lower licensing fees for craft manufacturers, expand marketing opportunities, modernize shipping laws, and increase retail outlets where small craft manufacturers can sell, serve and offer samples.

Mr. Bate said he attended the summit with a group of local winemakers and winery owners, including Trent Preszler of Bedell Cellars, Juan Micieli-Martinez of Martha Clara, Anthony Sannino of Sannino Bella Vita, Jim Waters of Waters Crest and Peggy Lauber of Wölffer Estate.

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