Lawmakers introduce bills to improve representation on Grape and Wine Industry Council

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Sen. Goeff Hansen

Sen. Goeff Hansen

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, and Reps. Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo, and Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, have introduced legislation that would change the makeup of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council so that it would more accurately reflect the industry.

Senate Bill 439 and House Bill 4667 (Iden) would change the name of the council to the “Michigan Craft Beverage Council.” Under the bills, the number of members on the council would be reduced from 12 to 10 and would include representatives from breweries and distilleries.

“The Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, which has been a tremendous asset to the grape and wine industry over the years, receives some of its funding from renewal fees from brewers, small distillers and brewpubs — which currently do not benefit from the council’s support,” Hansen said.

“Like winemakers, these brewers and distillers depend on productive harvests to produce quality products. They help support the council, so they should have a seat at the table and receive the benefits of membership.”

Under the legislation, the director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture would serve as the chairperson of the council and as a non-voting member. The governor would appoint nine voting members to three-year terms. These members would include:

•    An individual who operates a retail food establishment that holds a Specially Designated Merchant license and sells Michigan wine or beer;
•    An individual who operates a restaurant that holds a Class C license and serves Michigan wine;
•    Two winemakers;
•    A winemaker that manufactures wine made from fruit other than grapes;
•    A large brewer (brews at least 60,000 and not more than 100,000 barrels per year);
•    An individual who holds a brewpub license;
•    A small distiller; and
•    A distiller who manufactures more than 60,000 gallons of spirits per year.

Hansen said the legislation would prohibit the council from lobbying, and it would require the council to prepare and approve an annual budget; apply for and receive Pure Michigan grants; and establish educational partnerships to benefit the beer, wine and spirits industries.

“Exactly half of the new council’s budget will be designated both for grants for research on growing and planting, and also for financial aid programs for growing desirable varieties of fruit, barley, or hops,” Hansen said. “This will help ensure financial accountability in the council’s work.”

Iden spoke about the importance of improving representation on the council.

“The craft beverage industry is a pivotal part of Michigan’s economy,” Iden said. “We need to ensure that the council has the ability to help lead industry growth.”

SB 440 and HB 4668 (Kesto) would enable the Liquor Control Commission to deposit money into a fund for the Michigan Craft Beverage Council.

Hansen has previously served as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. He has been a strong proponent of agri-business and Michigan’s wine industry, having led the way for small winemakers to sell their wines and provide tastings at farmers markets.

SBs 439 and 440 have been referred to the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee. HBs 4667 and 4668 have been referred to the House Regulatory Reform Committee.