Schumer visits Hicks Orchard to talk cider

schumar at hicks 003By Jaime Thomas

New York state is the second largest apple producer in the United States, which creates a lot of fodder for hard cider production.

However, high taxation and vague regulations have discouraged more apple growers from making cider, Sen. Charles Schumer said, so he’s taking action.

The Brooklyn-based senator came to Slyboro CiderHouse at Hicks Orchard in Granville on Tuesday to talk about his proposed CIDER Act (cider, investment and development through excise tax reduction,) which will be introduced in the next week or two.

The act would tax cider at the same rate as beer, rather than wine and champagne. The allowed alcohol percentage for this lower rate would increase from 7 to 8.5 percent. Schumer pointed out that beer is taxed at 23 cents per gallon, while hard cider is categorized as wine and taxed at $1.07 per gallon. And if it’s carbonated, it is taxed at $3.30 per gallon.

“If we could get the tax down it would cost less for producers. It would be a huge shot in the arm for the New York cider industry,” Schumer said. “It will bring in tourists from far away, and it gives producers a stable source of income.”

Sales of domestically produced cider have drastically grown, and it will be a billion dollar industry in a few years, Schumer said.

Dan Wilson, owner of Hicks Orchard, said the scope and timing of this bill couldn’t be better. He and other growers across the country have recently formed the U.S. Cider Makers Association.

“The industry is kind of exploding right now, and this will stabilize the foundation of the industry as it grows,” Wilson said. He said hard cider currently exists in a gray area, and this bill will do a lot to clarify the definition of cider and upgrade regulations.

He said the bill, which is a good compromise, would give growers a lot of confidence, which in turn would promote more expansion.

Schumer said he cares a lot about New York’s agriculture, and his plan is about helping “make hard cider the apple of New York’s eye.”

“I think we’d be hard-pressed to find a solution better than that,” Schumer said with a smile at his pun. When others at the event asked Schumer what they could do to help, he said it was important for them to immediately reach out to local government in support of the CIDER Act.

“Hard cider is truly a value-added product; it seems like a no brainer. There will be many more of these producers if we pass this act, and I’m going to do everything I can to get it passed,” he said.

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