Legislation aimed at providing marketing options for small farm wineries fell victim this week to concerns by alcohol distributors about other bills allowing the direct shipment of wine.
The fate of SB 234 by Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, was likely sealed for the session Wednesday when the large beer distributors convinced Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon, R-Capshaw, to form a task force to study each bill so legislators could have accurate information.
Alabama Farmers Federation External Affairs Director Matthew Durdin said the organization would continue to work with legislators to free the small farm winery bill from the tangle of beverage legislation.
“It’s unfortunate a grassroots bill to remove restrictions that keep small farmers from effectively selling their products was derailed by corporations bent on maintaining control of the market,” Durdin said. “Other states have passed similar laws. The Federation will continue working with lawmakers to educate them about the need for this legislation and the accountability measures provided within its language.”
Under existing law, producers of alcoholic beverages may only sell to distributors or directly to consumers in limited quantities at the production facility. SB 234 would allow wineries licensed by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board to sell to licensed retailers and directly to consumers. It defines a “small winery” as one that produces less than 100,000 gallons of table wine a year and uses at least 50% fruit grown in Alabama or has at least five acres dedicated to growing fruit. It also requires at least 50% of the wine be produced at the winery location. Small farm wineries would be required to collect and remit applicable taxes.