Calaveras Enterprise – “Lungren talks wine with Calaveras vintners"

Mar 30, 2011
In The News

Washington, D.C., Mar 30, 2011 -

The Calaveras Winegrape Alliance hosted Congressman Dan Lungren at Ironstone Vineyards Wednesday, where he sat down for a listening session. A number of area wine industry members mixed with inquisitive members of the public as the congressman discussed a variety of topics.

Lungren’s 3rd Congressional District contains about 100 growers and vintners, which is why he accepted an invitation to co-chair the Congressional Wine Caucus earlier this year.

The wine industry is an economic force in California, Lungren said, adding that the industry accounts for almost half of the agricultural economy in some foothill counties.
“Though we have some very large wineries in the 3rd District, the majority are small businesses with unique challenges and needs,” Lungren said in a media release earlier this year.Wine grapes are the highest value fruit crop in the nation, and the sixth-largest crop overall, according to the National Association of American Wineries.

Wednesday’s visit began with a discussion about the Affordable Health Care for America Act, which Lungren said he did not support.

In fact, he introduced a bill to repeal the 1099 reporting requirements that stipulate businesses and nonprofits must report on any business-to-business transactions of more than $600 a year to the IRS.


His bill passed the House with 273 co-sponsors and is now in the Senate for consideration.

Lungren said he views this bill as “The first repeal of the health care act.”

“We have ideas like buying (insurance) across state lines and greater health savings accounts for individuals. There are a number of things we want to do.”

Business owners in the audience said their rates have already gone up significantly due to insurance companies bracing for the new law.

“What’s most important on your minds in terms of the industry?” Lungren asked the audience. “What’s helping? What’s hurting you?”

Ironstone owner John Kautz said that a proposed bill, the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2011 (HR 1161), would certainly hurt the industry if passed.


According to the bill’s language, it would support state-based alcohol regulation, clarify evidentiary rules for alcohol matters and ensure the collection of all alcohol taxes along with other purposes.

Similar bills have been proposed in the past without success.

Kautz said the bill has the full support of wholesalers who want to limit the ability of small wineries to ship their products.

One member of the audience said that if the bill passes it would be the “death knell for a lot of us small wineries.”
Lungren assured his audience that he was not in support of the bill, adding that during previous attempts the bill never even reached the committee review stage.

“We’ve got a couple wars we’re dealing with,” Lungren said. “Right now there doesn’t seem to be much impetus behind it,” but he did warn, “This is one of those things that if misunderstood could be dangerous.”


Lungren said that one angle supporters of the bill will likely use is the argument that it’s easier for minors to obtain alcohol through the Internet.

Kautz said that the lifeblood of small wineries is Internet sales and the proposed bill poses a very real threat.


“Whenever we ship wine out, a person 21 years of age has to sign for the wine,” said Nannette Tanner, owner of Tanner Vineyards. “You can pay extra for that. It’s $4 from UPS.

Lungren said if small wineries can point to responsible sales practices like what Tanner does, it will strengthen the argument against HR 1161.
The abundance of water in Calaveras County and inability to access and use most of it was also discussed.

Some audience members wanted to know why more dams weren’t being built and why infrastructure hadn’t been built in Calaveras County to gain access to the natural resource.“If I were elected (as governor) 13 years ago, we would have more water storage,” Lungren said. “Damn, when are we going to have another dam?


“We have a state in which we are convinced that we lock up our resources, offshore and onshore resources, lock up our water and everything is supposed to be great for us. That mindset is killing this state. We are going to have to have more storage.”

“Why we can’t convince the enviros that they should endorse dams and hydro is crazy,” one audience member said. “Water’s sitting here. If we don’t use it ... we will lose our allotment. Where’s the money going to come from (for infrastructure)? It can’t come out of our pocket, we’re being strapped enough.”

Lungren reminded the audience that $228 billion was added to the national deficit in February alone.


“We’re going to have a $1.6 trillion deficit for this year. California has already become Greece. I’m afraid the U.S. is not too far behind. I’m trying to see if there are solutions that allow you to work with existing water districts. I know this is touchy. Consolidation of water districts might make more sense. Someone told me there are 9,000 water districts in California.”

“All I’m saying is the reality is money on the federal level is going to be very limited compared to the past. ... Maybe this is the first time we could seriously look at consolidation. Times have changed since the 1800s.”

When asked about energy, Lungren expressed his commitment to wean America off foreign resources and focus on using natural resources at home.


“This is the time for us to press very strongly for what I call an 'all of the above' energy strategy. If we do not, the costs you see for energy right now are nothing compared to what they are going to be.”

Lungren said he supported an expansion of offshore oil drilling, development of shale oil reserves, drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and getting the administration out of the way in interfering with a proposed pipeline from Canadian tar sands to U.S. refineries.

Nuclear power is a political liability in light of what is happening in Japan, Lungren said.

“I have been astounded at the mainstream media’s hyping of the nuclear disaster. Not that there isn’t a problem – they always seem disappointed every night that the worst has not happened.

“As far as I can tell, it took a 9.0 earthquake, which is fifth-strongest in the history of reporting, and a tsunami as damaging as we’ve ever seen in modern times to cause this problem. I think it’s astounding that the containment vessels didn’t break.

“This is not the time to stand up on the floor talking about how nuclear is a great alternative. But, why then aren’t we focusing on the fact that fossil fuels will be a part of our lives for the next 50 years at least?”

On a local level, Lungren said he supported building biomass power plants like the one under construction in Ione.

“The energy bill said any timber product taken off federal lands cannot be considered as a renewable resource, specifically penalizing us for using that incredible resource. Unless we get it out and clean it up, we’re going to have catastrophic fires. I think we have to crack open that.”

“We are in an interdependent global economy where we will never be totally independent, but we can be less dependent if we add to the total volume of energy that is available ... We’ve got to be smart about this.”