2017 Legislative Session Recap

It was a busy and productive General Assembly Session for the Virginia Wine Council working on behalf of the Virginia wine industry. To keep you in the loop of the ever changing regulatory environment, below is a complete update on all the activities of the Virginia Wine Council this past session:

1. We advanced a study by the Secretariat of Agriculture and Forestry of the $1.37B Virginia wine industry. As the Virginia wine industry has experienced exponential growth in recent years so has the industry's profile before legislators and localities. This study will analyze the industry for the first time since 2006 and examine the impact of regulations regarding events and activities related to marketing Virginia wines, and the continuing viability of the industry. This study has been included in the final budget, which legislators will be voting on as they wrap up the General Assembly Session.

2. The Virginia Wine Council also continued to promote and advocate the value of the farm winery and vineyards tax credit. A bill to place a sunset date on this tax credit, and other tax credits, without a sunset or ending date, was debated and was passed by the Senate Finance Committee indefinitely and referred to the Joint Commission on Tax Preferences. This joint commission will review the farm winery and vineyard tax credit among others outside of session.

3. In addition the Council paid much attention to other proposals for new ABC licenses and regulations for all ABC licensees, to ensure we are able to keep you informed! This includes reading through and tracking the process to transform ABC to an Authority. Follow up legislation was necessary to address the details of the transition from the Department of ABC to an independent authority.

4. The Council also brought forth a "clean up" bill that makes consistent language in the Virginia code pertaining to wine and cider, except where laws specific to cider are separately stated. This bill will clarify many sections of the Virginia code and ensure Virginia's wine and cider producers continue to enjoy the benefits they have earned. This bill has passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature.

5. The Virginia Wine Council was also pleased to support legislation to provide an exemption for orchards and vineyards from the burn ban to have another tool in the toolbox to prevent frost and freeze damage. This bill has also passed and has been signed by the Governor.

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The next few months will be a pivotal period for the Virginia Wine industry to review policies, resources and tools, and bring forth a strong package of recommendations and policy in 2018 to continue to promote and strengthen the industry. We encourage all Virginia farm wineries, cideries, and vineyards to reach out to VWC staff with your suggestions and concerns.