Legislation aimed at helping small farm wineries become more economically sustainable unanimously passed the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee Wednesday.
SB 89 by Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre, would allow farmers who produce wine to sell directly to retail stores.
The legislation defines a “small farm winery” as one that produces less than 25,000 gallons per year or sources at least 50% of its fruit from Alabama. The bill includes a provision to protect previously qualified wineries from losing the designation if drought or another catastrophic event impacts their supply of local fruit.
Under existing law, producers of alcoholic beverages may only sell to distributors or directly to consumers in limited quantities at the production facility.
A similar bill stalled in the Legislature last year when distributors blocked a collection of bills related to wine over concerns about direct shipment. Alabama Farmers Federation’s Preston Roberts hopes changes in the bill will prevent similar delays this year.
“The small farm winery bill is not meant to create competition for distributors. It simply allows licensed farmers to sell their product to retailers,” said Roberts, the Federation’s director of agricultural legislation. “Without this legislation, it will be difficult for farmers to sell enough of their product on premises to stay in business.”
SB 89 now goes to the full Senate.