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March 16, 2013

Schumer moves to help apple growers

PLATTSBURGH — If new legislation amending the description of hard cider becomes law, business will be better for Elfs Farm Winery & Cider Mill and other producers.

Now, to avoid a federal tax that undermines the Plattsburgh mill’s effort to make hard cider pay, it produces the beverage at 7 percent alcohol per volume, which classifies it as wine.

As wine, said Head Elf Tom Frey, “we can’t put it in a grocery store. We can only sell it in our tasting room or store or at a liquor store.”

The Cider, Investment & Development through Excise Tax Reduction (CIDER) Act, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, would increase the allowed alcohol by volume from 7 to 8.5 percent, encompassing significantly more hard-cider and pear cider products and allowing them to be labeled and taxed as such, rather than wine, a news release said.

His proposal would also address existing tax issues in the Internal Revenue Code related to carbonation levels in hard cider and would put the new definition in line with that of the European Union, so producers can better compete with products abroad.

“It would be phenomenal,” Frey said. “It would it expand the market greatly.”

New York has more than 20 existing producers of hard apple cider and 650-plus apple growers, including a number of orchards in the North Country.

ALCOHOL CONTENT

In a telephone news conference this week, Schumer (D-New York City) explained that the alcohol content of New York’s hard cider fluctuates greatly due to sugar content and that current law often forces it to be taxed at a higher rate, preventing it from being labeled as hard cider.

Compliance adds a significant financial burden to producers and consumers, he said, and makes the business unpredictable and less attractive for potential new cider producers.

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