As a life-long resident of Napa Valley, a former winery employee, and a current winegrape grower, Congressman Thompson is proud to represent the heart and soul of California’s wine industry. The wine community contributes an estimated $162 billion to the U.S. economy annually and provides the equivalent of 1.1 million full-time jobs, including hundreds of thousands in California. The cultural and economic impact of our wine industry cannot be overstated.
That is why, upon arriving in Washington, Congressman Thompson immediately set about creating a legislative organization to focus on the wine industry. He co-founded the Congressional Wine Caucus with former Congressman George Radanovish in 1999. Today, the Caucus brings together more than 200 Senators and Representatives from all 50 states to educate and engage them in legislative and regulatory matters pertaining to the wine community.
Under Congressman Thompson's leadership, the Wine Caucus has held numerous policy briefings and wine receptions on Capitol Hill and become involved in a wide variety of legislative issues – all with the goal of promoting our country’s incredibly vibrant wine industry from grape to glass. Some of the issues the Caucus has been working on in the 112th Congress include:
- Bringing tax relief to vineyard owners. In January 2011, Congressman Thompson reintroduced the Family Farm Preservation and Conservation Estate Tax Act, which would allow vineyard owners to pass down their land and preserve our country’s strong agricultural heritage. Currently, when land passes from generation to generation, families frequently have to sell the farm to developers in order to pay the estate taxes. Fixing the tax code will help us preserve our agricultural land and open spaces.
- Protecting direct shipping of wine across state lines. Americans should have the ability to buy wine they cannot get directly from their favorite winery or merchant. The recently reintroduced Community Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act would threaten that right by banning the direct shipping of wine and other forms of alcohol in the U.S. If signed into law, this legislation would impose significant burdens on our wineries, our businesses, and our local economy.
- Stopping increases to the excise tax on wine. The Congressional Wine Caucus is strongly opposed to increasing the excise tax on wine because it would seriously undermine wineries’ efforts to grow and strengthen their businesses. To pay increased excise taxes, wineries would have to take funds directly out of their capital for expansion, severely limiting industry growth. Additionally, following an excise tax increase, wineries are likely to absorb the additional excise tax payment for at least several years until a new price point is established – negatively affecting the industry’s bottom line.
- Conserving and protecting vineyards and open spaces. In May 2011, Congressman Thompson reintroduced the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, which would help farmers, ranchers, and other modest-income landowners conserve and protect valuable agricultural lands, including vineyards. By providing tax benefits to landowners who choose conservation, the bill would help preserve our nation’s cherished farm lands and open spaces for future generations.
- Advocating for vital research and management funding. Congressman Thompson has consistently advocated for important funding for innovative research on grape quality, pest and disease research and management, and solutions to production problems facing the U.S. viticulture industry. In particular, funding for Pierce’s Disease and the Glassy-winged Sharpshooter is paramount to our wine industry, and the Congressman have vigorously fought to secure federal dollars to help combat this issue.
In Congress, members of the Congressional Wine Caucus will continue to educate our colleagues on the important legislative and regulatory issues affecting the wine community through the Congressional Wine Caucus. Working together, we are confident we can protect the interests of this incredibly vibrant industry from grape to glass.