2016 Legislative Session Recap

The 2016 Legislative Session has drawn to a close, and the Virginia Wine Council is proud to report on the advocacy we have completed on your behalf. This Session was punctuated by an increased number of threats to the Virginia wine industry and long fought battles that posed a risk to the rights of the Commonwealth's wineries, cideries, and vineyards. As the size and profile of the industry grows, you will continue to see increased threats and challenges to the way you do business. It was more important than ever that we maintained a strong presence in Richmond and to meet every challenge to Virginia wine, head-on.

The VWC advocated for funding for the Wine Promotion Fund, VWDC, and other programs critical to the Virginia Wine Industry. The budget includes new dollars to account for passage of the dedication of the cider markup to the Virginia Wine Promotion Fund (see below).

Cider Markup
The VWC successfully developed and advocated for the passage of HB654/Garrett and SB569/Ruff which redirects the proceeds of the cider markup (liter tax) from the state's general fund into the Wine Promotion Fund. This change has zero fiscal impact on cideries, and the funds can now be used for marketing, promotion, and education related to cider and wine, as well as funding events like Virginia Cider Week. The return on investment from these additional resources will greatly benefit the growth of the industry.
HB654 Full Text as Passed
SB569 Full Text as Passed

Virginia Grape Exchange
The VWC worked with Sen. Black to successfully pass SB758, a bill allowing farm wineries to trade their fruit amongst themselves without a penalty affecting their 51% farm-grown-fruit-requirement. This gives farm wineries the ability to trade grapes varieties they have in surplus with another winery for grapes they need to fulfill their production needs, while counting the grapes towards their 51% ABC requirement.
SB758 Full Text as Passed

Virginia Grapevine & Orchard Grant Fund
This Session we also laid the groundwork for HB1314/Hugo and SB717/Marsden which would create a vineyard expansion grant. SB717 passed the Senate with a strong vote of 36-3; however House voted to carry over both bills to 2017. This additional time will give the VWC and the industry the ability to educate legislators on the bill, develop a funding mechanism and bring the bill forward in 2017 for approval.
HB1314 Full Text as Carried Over
SB717 Full Text as Carried Over

Zoning of Farm Wineries
In its original form, HB879Hugo would have restricted the licensing of all future farm wineries and limited breweries to land zoned agricultural. It is new territory for Virginia to restrict where farm wineries may open. The bill would have prohibited new operations from opening on un-zoned lands, or lands with other named zoning designations that do allow agriculture, or localities that do work diligently to attract farm wineries, recognizing their positive economic impact to communities across the board. The bill was amended several times. The amendments addressed (1) the definition of "land zoned agricultural" (2) grandfathering language for the 270 farm wineries open today and those in the final processes of opening who will apply for and have a pending ABC license before July 1, 2016 and (3) whether the two current farm wineries on land zoned "residential conservation" would have the ability to expand in the future or whether they would simply be frozen in time. The bill was signed by the Governor and will go into law July 1, 2016.
HB879 Full Text as Passed

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 2017 to continue to promote and strengthen the industry. To ensure all Virginia wine stakeholders are involved in the process, we are hosting a series of legislative roundtables across the Commonwealth, Politics of the Grape Uncorked, to foster more discussion as follow up and to engage in discussion with our decision makers. We encourage all Virginia farm wineries, cideries, vineyards and orchards to make every effort to join us!

Please CLICK HERE to see a list of upcoming events. Call 804-726-6021 to speak with VWC staff to register today!