Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he has signed legislation to significantly reduce the regulatory burdens placed on farm wineries by the State Liquor Authority (SLA). This bill would implement several of the recommendations made by the New York State Wine Grape Task Force in its December 2008 report to the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets.
"This bill is a huge boost for wineries across the state. Reducing the regulatory burdens on farm wineries will allow them to continue to thrive as a key tourism, agricultural, and economic engine for our state. I want to thank Commissioner Aubertine, Senator Young and Assemblyman Schimminger for their dedication to this bill," Governor Cuomo said.
The Fine Winery Bill includes:
Branch Store Capability: The bill would give farm wineries the ability to operate up to five branch stores. While farm wineries can currently operate up to five "satellite stores," under existing law those stores must obtain separate licenses and are subject to the same off-premise restrictions imposed on package/liquor stores. The new "branch store" system would allow such stores to be considered extensions of the farm winery, not as separate entities, making it much easier for such stores to be opened up around the state.
Custom Crush Capability: The bill clarifies the ability of farm wineries to provide and/or utilize custom crush services for purchasers of New York grapes, thereby encouraging smaller vineyards to enter in the industry, which in turn will foster rural economic growth.
Direct Shipper's Report Efficiencies: New York wineries have been able to ship directly to consumers in other states since 2005, but needed to produce a very costly, time consuming and underutilized report. This legislation now requires them to maintain reports on-site and provide them to SLA only upon request.
License Consolidation: Under this bill, the law no longer requires the State's wineries that manufacture less than 1,500 gallons of wine annually to apply for a separate micro-winery license; rather all farm wineries will have the same license, with micro-winery licenses continuing to cost $50 annually.
Charitable Events Filing Efficiencies: New York wineries seeking to participate in charitable events are no longer restricted to five per year. Now, wineries will have to obtain an annual permit and notify SLA of the event, greatly reducing the amount of burden on both wineries and SLA, while ensuring the same oversight.
State Senator Catharine Young said, "Farm wineries are a growing, profitable sector in our state's agricultural industry, and I thank Governor Cuomo for his focus on strengthening our economy. By signing this bill, the Governor is partnering with us to relieve these wineries from cumbersome regulations that have impeded their productivity. Not only will this new law permit both New York farm wineries and the State Liquor Authority to operate more efficiently, it also will allow these private businesses and state government to cut costs. This initiative is exactly what our state needs to generate more economic vitality, opportunity and prosperity, and I was proud to sponsor this legislation."
State Assemblyman Robin Schimminger said, "This bill delivers on our shared commitment to further promote the successful development of New York's wine and grape industry. By streamlining regulatory requirements on farm wineries in our state, this bill will encourage new businesses and expansion in the agricultural industry. It also achieves efficiency and consolidation in reporting, licensing, and filing with the State Liquor Authority which will help both wineries and state government to function more resourcefully while ensuring an appropriate level of oversight. I thank the Governor for signing this bill. Working together we will continue to prove that New York is open for business."
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine said, "Governor Cuomo recognizes the significant role agriculture plays in the State's economy. With wine being one of the fastest growing sectors of that industry, this legislation offers numerous benefits to farm wineries that will have a ripple effect throughout the countryside. I thank Governor Cuomo, Senator Young and Assemblyman Schimminger for their hard work on this bill."
The New York wine and grape industry has a $3.76 billion economic impact from the production of wine and grapes grown on nearly 1,400 vineyards statewide. Since the passage of the Farm Winery Law in 1976, the number of New York's farm wineries has grown from under twenty to nearly 306 today.
Wine production has increased more than 50 percent in the last 20 years to nearly 200 million bottles annually. New York is now the third largest wine producing state in the country, behind California, and recently Washington. The sale of New York wines account for $420 million a year.
Today, more than 5 million tourists visit New York wineries annually. The five major wine producing regions in the State are the Finger Lakes, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, Lake Erie and the Niagara Escarpment, however there are wineries in 51 of New York's 62 counties.