By Michael Kaiser
Last week WineAmerica and the Winegrape Growers of America (WGA) held the annual Wine and Grape Policy Conference at the Phoenix Park Hotel here in Washington, DC. The annual conference allows the Board of Directors for both organizations a chance to meet, as well as for joint policy meetings. This year we had industry members from 16 states in attendance.
The Conference started on Sunday, May 8 with a meeting of the Executive Committee of the WineAmerica Board of Directors. WGA also had a short Board Meeting. The evening concluded with an informal wine reception. This year the Conference had a specific focus on wines from Idaho. WineAmerica will be holding its Fall Board Meeting in Boise this November.
On Monday, May 9 a joint policy session was held. The major topics of discussion this year were the CARE Act, the upcoming re-authorization of the Farm Bill, immigration reform, and excise taxes. The joint policy meeting featured a presentation from Peter Cressy, the president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. The policy meeting also featured a panel discussion on agriculture issues featuring Robert Guenther of United Fresh, Jennifer Montgomery of WineAmerica, Jean-Mari Peltier of the National Grape and Wine Initiative, and Craig Regelbrugge of the American Nursery and Landscape Association. After a joint lunch the group headed to meetings at the United States Department of Agriculture.
Tuesday, May 10 started with concurrent WineAmerica and WGA Board Meetings. The WineAmerica Board Meeting focused on how to increase membership within the organization and all of the hard work the staff has been doing over the past year. The afternoon featured meetings with Members of Congress and their staffs. The congressional meetings are essential for our industry to present concerns and ideas to their elected representatives. At the core of the discussion this year with Congress is the industry's opposition to HR 1161, or the CARE Act. Tuesday wrapped up with the annual Taste the Wines of America wine reception. This year we featured wine from 24 different states.
After a breakfast speech from Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) the State Associations Council met. The SAC is a great resource for sharing ideas and to update what is going on in each state. The SAC meeting marked the end of the 2011 Wine and Grape Policy Conference. Overall, it was a very successful conference we are looking forward to the WineAmerica Board Meeting in Boise, Idaho this November.