By Kang Liu
For the Times Argus
WASHINGTON — Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., joined Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in introducing legislation late last week aimed at expanding the hard cider business in their respective states.
The bill — dubbed the Cider Investment and Development through Excise Tax Reduction, or CIDER, Act — would increase the levels of carbonation and alcohol allowed in hard cider without subjecting it to taxation as wine or sparkling wine.
In order to increase the competitiveness of U.S.-made cider, the bill would also make domestic cider standards consistent with the European standards. In addition, the legislation would allow pears to be part of the cider manufacturing process.
In a news release, Leahy said cider consumers “expect and prefer a higher level of carbonation, similar to that of most beer.” He also noted that many small cider producers have limited ability to predict or control the precise alcohol content or carbonation levels in ciders.
According to 2012 statistics from the U.S. Agriculture Department, Vermont has 264 apple farms located on 3,241 acres of land. The average net value of Vermont apples when they leave these farms is about $15 million.
Bret Williams, president and CEO of the Vermont Hard Cider Co., was quoted in Leahy’s press release as saying the bill “will bolster Vermont’s role as a national leader in hard cider, just as it is in craft beer, cheese, and ice cream.”
Added Williams, “These proposed changes will allow Vermont cider makers to fully realize that potential, bringing solid economic growth to the Vermont landscape.”
The Middlebury-based Vermont Hard Cider Co., known for its brand of Woodchuck Hard Cider, was purchased by Ireland’s C&C Group last year. At the time of the purchase, the company had 125 employees.
“Boosting cider production would create new economic opportunities for local cider manufacturers like the Vermont Hard Cider Co….while opening new markets for local apple producers throughout Vermont.” Leahy said.
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