Bill designed to protect Idaho’s wine industry

A vineyard in the Sunnyslope area near Caldwell, Idaho, is shown in this October 2013 photo. A bill introduced in the Idaho Legislature seeks to protect winegrape harvest and production in the event a winery were to have its license suspended, revoked or not renewed for any reason.

BOISE — A bill designed to protect Idaho wineries and grape growers from unintended consequences license issues has been introduced in the Idaho Senate.

The bill would allow the harvest and production of winegrapes, as well as bottling operations, to continue even if a winery were to have its license suspended, revoked or not renewed for any reason.

Under current Idaho law, all of a winery’s manufacturing, bottling and sales and distribution operations must be halted in such cases.

The proposed update to Idaho law only deals with a winery’s manufacturing and bottling operations and not to its sales and distribution operations.

“An Idaho winery has a lot of different moving parts,” Idaho Wine Commission Legislative Educator Roger Batt told members of the Senate State Affairs Committee, which unanimously voted to print the bill. “When you shut down a winery, you also shut down the farming and bottling portions of that operation.”

Batt said the legislation is important because if the bottling and manufacturing operations of a winery are shut down, “then the farming contracts that the winery has with the producers basically are void and nobody gets paid.”

He said there have been two recent incidents where a winery’s license was not renewed because the owner moved to another residence and didn’t get their license renewal notices through the mail in time. In both cases, all operations were shut down for a period of time.

Luckily, he added, that didn’t happen during harvest time.

If it did, “It would be extremely detrimental to that winery because you could lose a partial amount or maybe all of your crop for that production year,” he said. “That would set the winery back so much that in the case of small wineries, it would probably close them down permanently.”

The legislation was proposed by the wine commission, which represents wine producers and grape growers in Idaho.

IWC Executive Director Moya Shatz-Dolsby said the change to Idaho law is crucial to protect the state’s fast-growing wine industry.

If a winery’s manufacturing and bottling operations did cease because a license wasn’t renewed in time, “It could really put a damper on a winery’s operations; it would be devastating,” she said. “The wine is a living thing; you can’t just not do anything with it for weeks or months until you get your license back.”

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