Collins touts CIDER Act as way to grow apple economy
Sep 4, 2013
In The News
RIDGEWAY — When is a bottle of hard apple cider not a cider?
Under existing federal tax statutes, that’s a serious and costly question for cidermakers.
Washington defines cider differently than wine or champagne for tax purposes, charging producers wildly different tax rates on a per gallon basis.
If a cider’s alcohol by volume, which varies from 4 percent to 9 percent depending on the variety of apples used, is taxed as wine if it’s more than 7 percent; and as beer if it’s less than 7 percent.
If it’s too-carbonated, it’s considered champagne and moved into a much-higher tax bracket.
Wendy Oakes Wilson’s Leonard Oakes Estates Winery produces wine made from fuji apples and a hard apple cider. She said poorly-fitting regulations cost her more than $8,000 a year and $5 for every 12-bottle case of cider the winery produces.
“We’re taxed at $2.40 per gallon compared to 17 cents, all because of carbonation,” Wilson said. “That’s money that would we put right back into our local economy.”
Oakes hosted a gathering of apple growers and cider makers Tuesday for an event supporting the Cider Industry Deserves Equal Regulation Act, a proposed bill co-sponsored by Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence.
The proposed bill, introduced by Collins and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-OR, amends the federal tax code definitions for hard cider products to up to 8.5 percent alcohol by volume and a carbonation of 6.4 grams per liter.
Collins said the changes would promote innovation and growth in the local cider industry, which is already steadily growing by 20 percent annually.
“If these simple changes to the tax code are made, not only will the American cider industry expand and become more competitive and profitable, but our local apple growers will see a major demand for their product,” Collins said. “We should do everything we can to promote more sales of specialized products.”
Allowing greater leeway in what is considered cider would allow cidermaker Jerod Thurber of Leonard Oakes and others room to work with new apple combinations.
“We could be more bold,” said Thurber, who showcased a variety of cider varieties at last weekend’s Steampunk Festival. “Our approach is quality and artistry ... this may allow us to experiment even more.”
Cider production effects a wider field of local agriculture than just wineries. Gary and Margaret Roberts, whose Medina apple farm sells non-alcoholic cider, send freshly-pressed apple juice to nearby winemakers.
“We make juice for three wineries,” Gary Roberts said. “We send from 750 gallons to 3,000 or 4,000 gallons to each one.”
The CIDER Act was formerly introduced in August, and moved to the Committee on Ways and Means, whose membership includes Blumenauer and Rep. Tom Reed, R–Corning.
Collins said the standalone bill, which mirrors a Senate bill proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer, could be passed separately or included in pending omnibus agricultural and tax reform bills.