Leahy, Schumer Effort To Uncork Growing Cider Industry In Vermont, N.Y. And Elsewhere Moves Forward

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, Feb. 12, 2015) – Legislation from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) aimed at helping the growing hard cider industry in Vermont and New York took an important step forward this week.  The CIDER Act – Cider Investment and Development through Excise Tax Reduction Act – would update the outdated federal definition of hard cider to meet current market expectations and manufacturing practices.  The bill language was included in a non-controversial set of tax provisions that now has been passed out of the Senate Finance Committee.  Schumer and Leahy first introduced the bill in 2013.

In recent years the rising popularity of hard cider has led to significant growth in the industry, driving Vermont’s model of value-added agriculture, partnering local orchards and cider makers.  A national news report earlier this year quipped that Vermont is primed to become “The Napa Valley of Cider.”  The CIDER Act would raise the allowable levels of carbonation in hard ciders; align the alcohol content standard with the natural sugar content of apples; make U.S. standards consistent with European standards; and allow pears to be used in the manufacturing process.  

Leahy said:  “Demand for Vermont’s hard cider and for Vermont quality continue to rise, and this will help our cider and apple producers meet the growing demand.  Vermont is known for quality products, and value-added agriculture, like cider making, is a key building block for our state’s emerging markets and for our economy.”

Leahy, long a leading advocate for expanding value-added agriculture in Vermont, each year spotlights Vermont agricultural products – including cider -- at the highly successful “Taste Of Vermont” exposition on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

Under current federal law, the outdated definition of hard cider only allows up to seven percent alcohol by volume before it is taxed at the higher rate for wine, and only a certain level of carbonation before it is taxed at the even higher rate of sparkling wine.  Market research shows that cider consumers today expect and prefer a higher level of carbonation, similar to that of most beer. 

Dan Rowell, president and CEO of the Vermont Hard Cider Company, said:  “We want to thank Senators Leahy and Schumer for introducing this bill.  The hard cider industry is poised for real growth both here in Vermont and across the country.  These proposed changes will allow Vermont cider makers to fully realize that potential, bringing solid economic growth to the Vermont landscape.  It will bolster Vermont’s role as a national leader in hard cider, just as it is in craft beer, cheese, and ice cream.  We look forward to working together to get the CIDER Act passed.”

Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association President Terry Bradshaw said:  “New opportunities in the industry over the last 20 years have been few and far between.  Vermont's apple growers are excited about the recent developments in the cider portion of their business.  We believe the CIDER Act can make a huge difference in consumers' acceptance of hard cider, just as we've seen tremendous gains of artisan beer consumers.” 

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