Leahy, Schumer Introduce Bill To Help Growing U.S. Cider Industry

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) teamed up on Thursday to introduce legislation aimed at helping the growing hard cider industry in Vermont and New York.  Their CIDER Act – Cider Investment and Development through Excise Tax Reduction Act – would update the federal definition of hard cider to meet current market expectations and manufacturing practices. 

Leahy said:  “Vermont is closely associated with the booming market for hard cider, and this is a great opportunity to help cider and apple producers in Vermont meet the growing demand from coast to coast.  Boosting cider production would create new economic opportunities for local cider manufacturers like the Vermont Hard Cider Company in Middlebury, while opening new markets for local apple producers throughout Vermont.  This fits our strategy for expanding value-added agriculture in Vermont, which is a key building block for Vermont’s emerging markets and economy.”

Bret Williams, President and CEO of 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 again thank Senators Leahy and Schumer for taking the lead on this effort, and we look forward to working with them to get the CIDER Act passed.”

Terry Bradshaw, President of the Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association, said:  “Vermont apple growers and cidermakers strongly support Senator Leahy’s proposed changes to federal hard cider tax law.  Apples – grown on nearly 4,000 acres of land in the state – are the second-most valuable specialty crop in Vermont with a farmgate value of over $15 million.  Expansion of high-value processed apple products, like hard cider, could significantly increase opportunities for regional and U.S. apple growers.  The hard cider market is rapidly expanding, but outdated tax policies will hamper this growth that promises to increase jobs, support farms, and enhance the quality of life throughout rural communities in Vermont.”   

Specifically, the Schumer-Leahy 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, which would increase the opportunity to expand U.S. exports; and allow pears to be part of the manufacturing process, which would help to develop the emerging pear cider and perry market.  

The new cider standards set by the CIDER Act would more accurately reflect the realities of the industry and the preferences of consumers.  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 of 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.  In addition, many small, craft cider producers who rely on natural raw materials often have little ability to predict and control the precise alcohol content or carbonation levels of their products.

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