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From Craft Distilling To Craft Lobbying In Congress

The U.S. Congress, for better or worse, is a pay to play environment where industries with strong lobby arms (i.e. political action committees (PAC)) have a better chance of getting their agendas met versus piecemeal attempts at talking with individual congressional members. The rapidly growing craft distilling movement, realizing this, has turned to its industry group, the American Distilling Institute (ADI), to do that, and so far significant financial contributions from these members indicate a strong desire to get their issues addressed.

The ADI spelled out today exactly what’s going on on its Facebook page, indicating that since it announced the launch of a so-called “grassroots” lobbying campaign a few weeks back, over 50 craft distilleries have already pledged over $250,000 to form a PAC representing their interests. It is believed there are more than 900 craft operations at this point, 200 of which are currently under construction.

Some of the many US craft distillers in attendance of an industry conference (image via ADI)
Some of the many US craft distillers in attendance of an industry conference (image via ADI)

Here’s exactly what the ADI said around what the PAC, which will be controlled by the contributing distilleries, will focus on:

Federal Excise Tax (FET) is the single most important nationwide issue facing distillers. We have seen more momentum on this issue in Congress in the last 6 months than in the last 6 years combined. ADI has been asked by craft distillers across America to formally push for passage of the FET reduction bills. In response, ADI has decided to pursue hiring a professional lobbying group that can focus on the different tax bills that are currently in Congress.

The U.S. Congress is considering various pieces of legislation to finally reduce the FET on spirits from its current $13.50 per proof gallon down to $2.70 per proof gallon on the first 100,000 proof gallons of production for each distillery. The effects of these bills cannot be overstated. No nationwide issue is as important to distillers as the FET. For a distillery producing 1,000 9-liter cases, the tax reduction would amount to more than $20,000. A distillery with sales of 5,000 cases would save more than $100,000!

There are at least four other bills that have been introduced and rumors of another half-dozen that are being drafted. A clear idea of proposed legislation is needed by the craft distilling community so craft distillers can decide on what legislation to support and act with one unifying voice and boots on the ground in all 50 states.

The professional lobbying group the ADI is hiring “will help the distilling community put the strategy together, secure meetings with Congressional leaders, attend the hearings and work the halls of Congress.” They will also work with the new PAC, which is being called “the Spirits of 76. This name was inspired by the same spirit that helped our nation lead a revolution in 1776 based partially on unfair taxation.”

“With the various bills pending in Congress right now,” said Bill Owens, founder and president of ADI, in a statement, “and the possibility of more to be introduced, craft distillers are right to seek a clear and unified voice to help educate the distilling community and Congress as a whole. We look forward to working with other interested trade groups and representatives of the various elements of the industry to ensure the needs of the craft distilling community are represented.”

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