By Cary Greene
In December, we sent out an ezine to the membership regarding a memo written by the Office of Management & Budget (“OMB”)—the federal agency that makes recommendations concerning government regulation and which oversees the drafting of the President’s budget—that asked whether the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (“TTB”) should be dismantled. OMB proposed a transfer of TTB’s tax collection duties to the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), and TTB’s regulatory and public safety functions to the Food & Drug Administration (“FDA.”)
WineAmerica took a serious, but low key approach, in coalition with other producer groups, mindful that such a dramatic regulatory change would have a substantial impact on wineries. We hoped that OMB and the President’s administration generally could be convinced not to include an overhaul of TTB in the President’s budget. Apparently, these efforts were successful. See http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/tre.pdf (TTB’s budget begins on page 1092).
While we are pleased to find no significant regulatory change for wineries in the President’s budget, historically, OMB has a habit of retreading its ideas in subsequent budgets. TTB “user fees”—essentially charging wineries to be regulated—and significant excise tax increases have both been proposed repeatedly by OMB, though not this year. Most likely, we now need to add the dismantling of TTB to our annual watch list.
The membership put us in a great position to get our grassroots engaged should it have been necessary, reaching out continuously since December regarding this issue. While we may ask that more funding be dedicated to the label approval process as 2013 expenditures move through Congress, we are happy to focus on improving industry regulation rather than battle to keep regulation from becoming a larger stumbling block to industry development.