As with any industry that’s involved with alcohol, there are a lot of laws and regulations surrounding craft cider, decided and overseen both at a state and federal government level. Things in legislative realms tend to happen either very quickly or very, very slowly, and for producers and consumers alike, the laws around cider can be murky and confusing.
Advocating for local independent cider makers has always been a top priority for the PA Cider Guild. “When we formed in 2014, we immediately recognized the need to become actively involved in the legislative matters surrounding the industry,” explained board member Steve Frecon of Frecon Farms.
At the time the Guild was formed, Pennsylvania had legally classified cider as a malt beverage with an ABV not to exceed 5.5%, and federal laws were not much different. When you think of malt beverages, you tend to think of fruity, alco-pop-type sodas and 40-ounce bottles, right? This certainly didn’t reflect the products we knew our members were creating.
Additionally, cider makers who were producing under limited winery licenses and growing their own apples were subject to double marketing assessments. To us, that didn’t seem like a burden that small producers should have to shoulder. “We thought our product was not appropriately defined at the state or federal level, and thus was subject to excessive taxation,” Steve said. “We agreed that legislative action must be a priority for the PA Cider Guild.”
By banding together and making a huge, concerted effort, we’ve made significant progress in this arena. Through the activities of the Cider Guild’s legislative committee, we’ve been successful on a number of legislative goals. Here are some highlights:
• In 2015, we gained the support of Federal Congressman Ryan Costello to cosponsor the CIDER ACT H.R.2903, which would loosen tax restrictions on hard cider and raise the ABV at the federal level to 8.5%, setting a precedent for future legislation at the state and federal level.
• We’ve been working with the PA Apple Marketing Board to eliminate the marketing assessment on apples designated to be fermented into hard cider and grown by a cidery.
• We entered into a contract and teamed up with with Versant Strategies, a public affairs firm that specializes in agricultural issues, to promote the virtues of our legislative agenda in Harrisburg.
• Along with State Representative Barry Jozwiak, Senate Chairman Chuck McIlhinney, Senate Law and Justice Committee ExecutiveDirector Gail Reinard and State Liquor Chairs Paul Costa and Adam Harris, we succeeded in amending the legal definition of cider in the state liquor code to identify alcoholic cider as an individual product and raising the permissible ABV to 8.5%.
• We worked with PA Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding and the PA Farm Show to have hard cider recognized as a commodity to be judged and supported by state and federal marketing and grant programs.
Our hard work is not finished — we have a number of legislative priorities that we hope to tackle in 2018 and beyond. These include:
• Continuing our work with Versant Strategies and Rep. Jozwiak to redefine alcoholic cider in the state’s Liquor Code via House Bill 1497. Our goal through this effort is to ensure that any product called “hard cider” must be made primarily of apples and pears.
• Working with the Department of Agriculture to put forth a marketing order that would raise funding for hard cider marketing and research.
• Beginning to lay the foundation of the PA Farm Cidery Act, legislation that would promote and protect the growth of hard cider production within the state.
We can’t do this work without the support of our members. If you aren’t already part of the PA Cider Guild, consider joining today. If you are already part of the Guild and want to get more involved with legislative efforts, please send us a note through the Contact Form on our website.
Photo Credit: Casey Martin Photography for Cider Culture