Wyden’s brew bill up for vote

Wyden-ron-SenatorOregon Senator Ron Wyden

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden said that the state’s economy is well-positioned to benefit from two bipartisan bills passed in the Senate Finance Committee.

Wyden, the Finance Committee’s top Democrat, said one of those two bills would help Oregon’s growing cider industry by updating antiquated excise taxes. Those excise taxes are outdated because their current definition of hard cider sets alcohol and carbonation levels that are too low, unfairly triggering higher tax rates for craft and entrepreneurial cider makers.

The second of the two bills passed by the committee Wednesday, Wyden said, would help Oregon’s brewers, vintners, and distillers by allowing them to file less frequently, and exempting them from costly and complicated bonding requirements as long as they don’t expect to be liable for more than $50,000 per year in annual alcohol excise taxes. This would reduce business costs and compliance burdens for hundreds of Oregon brewers, wineries, and distilleries.

Oregon is a leading state in producing high-quality wine, beer, cider and distilled spirits, Wyden noted. The state has 221 small and independent breweries directly employing more than 6,600 people and contributing more than $2.8 billion to Oregon’s economy. Oregon is also home to some 605 wineries, 22 cider producers, and 25 distillers.

“Oregon’s ciders, beers, wines, and spirits have become essential pieces of our state’s economy, earning deserved renown for their quality products throughout the country and the world,‘’ Wyden said. “Both these bills make it easier to maintain that position and build upon it—news that’s worth toasting in every corner of our state.”

Pete Mulligan, President of the Northwest Cider Association, said craft cider is the fastest growing craft beverage in the United States and called the cider bill “very critical” to growing and sustaining the craft cider category nationwide, specifically in the Pacific Northwest with 52 craft cider companies, 22 of them in Oregon.

“This change with the legislation would help support craft cidermakers by removing constraints placed on the industry that are outdated and do not allow cidermakers to craft cider to its fullest potential,” Mulligan said. “Specifically allowing us to use pears as well as apples, permits the increase of the carbonation level in cider and allows cidermakers to ferment fruit using the natural sugar levels found in the fruit without reducing this to avoid the penalty of higher taxes. We’d like to thank Senator Wyden and all those who have placed a tremendous effort in supporting the Craft Cider industry.”

James Kohn, a co-owner of Wandering Aengus Ciderworks in Salem as well as the founder of Cider Conference and a founding board member of the United Association of Cider Makers, credited Senator Wyden and his staff with helping his company deal with the very excise tax issues the bill would resolve.

“Senator Wyden also sent staff to present and offer guidance to the US cider industry at the first Cider Conference in 2011 in Salem, Oregon,” Kohn said. “Today, it is excellent to see Senator Wyden follow through again on his support of the national and Oregon cider industry.’’

“The small and independent brewers of Oregon and across the United States appreciate Senator Wyden’s leadership in shepherding this common-sense, administrative reform on bonding requirements through the Finance Committee,” said Gary Fish, founder and CEO of Deschutes Brewery in Bend and board chair of the national Brewers Association. “Senator Wyden and other members of the Finance Committee appreciate that the change made by this bill really applies to the smallest of the small brewers, and helps alleviate an administrative burden that allows these very small brewers to focus on growing their businesses and hiring more workers.”

Senator Wyden’s record of fighting for Oregon’s libation industry includes his introduction this session of a bill that would reduce the excise tax on each barrel of beer produced by small brewers; consistent advocacy for allowing brewers to continue sending their spent grains to state farmers; his support for selling wine growlers in Oregon; and his co-chairmanship of the Senate Bipartisan Small Brewers Caucus.

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