Minnesota Bill Proposes Wine Council
Wineries and vineyards in Minnesota, the state at winegrowing’s cold climate frontier and a leader in cold hardy grape breeding, could be on the way to having a state funded wine and grape council. A bill called HF1831 is slowly making its way through committees in the statehouse. Irv Geary, Past President of the Minnesota Grape Growers Association (MGGA) and owner of Wild River Vineyards explains what’s going on…
Midwest Wine Press: What’s HF1831 all about?
Irv Geary: HF1831 is a bill proposed by the MGGA to do two major things. First, it will start to regulate Direct to Consumer (DTC) wines being shipped into the state of Minnesota. Currently DTC wines coming into the state are not regarded as a sale and thus not tracked or taxed. This bill would require DTC wineries, both in and out of state, to license with the state, file shipping reports and pay sales tax.
Secondly, the sales tax collected would be directed to the Department of Agriculture for the formation of a Minnesota Grape and Wine Advisory Council. This council would be made up of wineries, growers and various members of the industry. They would give project recommendations to the commissioner of agriculture surrounding consumer awareness, marketing, industry education, create funds for extension and create grants for research and development.
MWP: If the bill is approved, how will it help change the Minnesota wine industry?
IG: If passed we are hoping this bill would put our state on par with other states that have had successful wine councils such as MO and MI. We have seen the success elsewhere and are hoping to emulate their programs. We would like to see state wide consumer education around MN grape varietals and MN wines. Further, we are in need of industry development and education so are looking for extension help in viticulture and enology, as well as creating grants for grape and wine research and development. With better wines and more consumer awareness we believe it is possible to see the percentage of wine purchased in the state that is MN grow to 10%. We know we can do better and this is the key to more opportunities.
MWP: What is the timeline for the bill getting through committees and then to the House?
IG: The bill has been heard in the House Agriculture and Commerce committees. It has been referred on to the Omnibus Liquor bill so may go through the house in there which we feel very good about. It has not been heard in the Senate yet and needs more support there. If it clears the house it may still find its way into the senate but we are trying to help it along as much as possible.