Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

March 15, 2013

Schumer proposing legislation concerning cider

STAFF REPORTS
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — New York hard cider producers would see a bigger glassful of the market, if legislation proposed this week by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer comes to pass.

In a conference call Wednesday, Schumer said the legislation, called the CIDER Act, would modify the definition of what qualifies as hard cider.

The move would decrease taxes producers pay on the product and boost business for apple growers and cider producers across the Empire State, Schumer said. New York has over 650 apple growers and 23 cider producers.

“New York is the second largest apple producer in the country and there’s no doubt it should be at the core of the hard cider industry, which is rapidly growing in popularity,” said Schumer.

Under current federal law, hard cider is taxed at 23 cents per gallon, but if its alcohol content exceeds 7 percent the tax jumps to $1.07 per gallon, the same rate as wine. And ciders with carbon dioxide levels exceeding 39 percent are taxed at $3.30 per gallon, the same rate as champagne.

The Cider, Investment & Development through Excise Tax Reduction Act would expand the Internal Revenue Code’s definition of hard apple cider to include those with alcohol content up to 8.5 percent, while removing carbonation limits and tax them at the lower 23 cents per gallon rate. It would also maintain the discounted 17 cents per gallon rate for the smallest producers.

New York is the second largest apple producer nationwide, harvesting a total of 29.5 million bushels annually from over 650 farms and 41,000 acres across the state. In western New York there are 3,478 acres of apple orchards. In Niagara County, 81 apple farms have 3,317 of those acres. Black Bird Cider Works of Barker is the lone cider producer in the county.

According to IBIS World, an analyst of the beverage industry, sales of domestically produced cider have more than tripled to a projected $601 million in 2012, up from $178 million in 2007. There has also been a distinct spike in consumption of hard cider across the country in recent years and the demand for specialty apples grown for hard cider production has also been very high, with prices from $20 to $50 per bushel.

In a statement, Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, applauded Schumer’s proposal. The proposal would allow New York’s cider producers to label and market their products independently of wine, leading to a reliable source of revenue, she said.

Dean Norton, president of New York Farm Bureau, said the legislation would “contribute to the growth and diversification of these farm based businesses and the jobs they provide to their local communities.”