My Letter Regarding HR 5034 to Our Representatives

I wanted to post my letter that I wrote to Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan and Representative David E. Price, all my Congressional representatives in North Carolina.

For those of you unfamiliar with HR 5034, the resolution is a bill pushed by the National Beer Wholesalers of America and currently co-sponsored by 22 members of the House of Representatives that seeks to restrict the federal government’s ability to determine alcohol shipping policy. Their eventual goal is to get protection from the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution so that states can restrict or even prohibit direct shipping from wineries to consumers. The result will be that distributors will take even more control of wine distribution in the country, restricting our freedom to buy wine directly from wineries. What this means is you will only be able to buy the wine that is sold in stores in your area. No more ordering online. There is no logical reason to do this for our sake. We as consumers don’t need this heinous “protection.”

I’m asking for your support in defeating HR 5034. Passing this measure will severely limit our ability to choose which wines we purchase, putting our selection at the mercy of distributors who are more concerned about their profits than our choice. The many states that currently allow direct shipping prove that the current system works for us. Why take away our freedom of choice in the name of special interests?

This is an issue of individual and business rights. While the National Beer Wholesalers of America (NBWA) is ostensibly lobbying on behalf of states’ rights, what they are actually doing is trying to trample our individual rights while soliciting special favors from states. The only goal of this federal law is to eliminate any judicial recourse we would have in defeating laws that would needlessly and negatively impact wineries. It would effectively create a loophole in the explicit Commerce Clause of the U.S.  Constitution.

The Constitution should be above special interests, no matter how much they’re paying Washington. Please consider very carefully how you plan to vote on this measure, as it will indicate whether you truly have the best interests of your constituents in mind.

Sincerely,

Joshua S. Sweeney
If you want to join the fight in preventing this power grab from taking effect, you can do so by writing, emailing, faxing, or calling your Congressional representatives. If you’re unsure of how to do this, you can let Free the Grapes do it for you. Visit their site here:

Simply personalize the letters to the House and Senate members, add your address information, and Free the Grapes will determine your representatives and email or fax your letters to them for you.

Also, please join the Facebook Group Stop HR 5034 for additional info, news, and updates: http://www.facebook.com/STOPHR5034

Please take time to do this. If this bill passes, and your state ends direct shipping, you will only be able to buy what wholesalers provide for you. Being able to try wines from Virginia, Michigan, Arizona, Texas — almost any state you don’t live in, really — will require actually being in those states unless a wholesaler decides to sell it in your hometown.

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8 Responses to “My Letter Regarding HR 5034 to Our Representatives”

  1. Ben Simons Says:

    Great letter! I sent one to my reps too. This thing has got to be stopped. I can’t even believe that we are having to respond to such a ridiculous piece of…, legislation.

    • wineaccguy Says:

      Thanks, Ben. I’m really glad to see how the online wine community mobilized around this cause. I can’t wait to see how the fruits of our labor pay off.

  2. Karin Says:

    This piece of legislation is the most ridiculous distribution protectionism! And I don’t get it. Why are distributors so up-in-arms about D-to-C when their continued consolidation results in the 10 largest wineries in the US holding 82% of the distribution channel. They’re not carrying the small producers anyway. It will kill the industry.

    • wineaccguy Says:

      Absolutely, Karin. It’s an isolated enough issue that they’re trying to make a power grab while bigger things occupy the country’s mind. While we worry about health care and Wall Street and finances (which are all legitimate worries, btw), they’re trying to sneak this by us. We can’t let them!

  3. Jeffrey H. Mayo Says:

    Dear All,
    This bill is serious. It could put me out of business. I only make 8,000 cases of wine per year, but I employ 5 full time and 8 part time people, not including myself and my parents who own our winery. We sell 98% of our wine direct to consumers and have no distribution. We used to have 15 distributors across the nation know we have none. We are too small and make over 20 single vineyard wines per year from 12 or more verietals. No distributor will sell my wines due to the small quantities and different kinds of wines that I make, but customers love my wines. I sell over 2 million dollars of my wines per year direct to consumers through my tasting rooms and wine club. Many of my customers are out of state and require the wines they buy to be shipped, and California wine buyers cannot pick up the slack should my ability to ship out of state be restricted further. There are simply too many great wineries here in California and we need access to out of state customers whose states do not have the incredible climate that we have. Please help keep the USA a place that values fair trade, the place that does not discriminate against the little guy, and the country that does not allow the congress to pass a law that that is so against the basic ideals of American history that it cannot be challenged in a court of law.
    Very Truly Yours,
    Mayo Family Winery

    Jeffrey H. Mayo
    President

    • wineaccguy Says:

      And this is exactly why we’re rallying around defeating this bill. If this passes, we’re going to lose the dedication and innovation that smaller wineries like yours provide. I really hope that our government will not sacrifice the quality of our wine industry for a quick buck. Thank you for the personal perspective that Congress so desperately needs to hear. I hope you’ve already let your feelings be known to them.

  4. Monte Says:

    Here was my response to my congressman:
    Congressman McCaul,
    I am writing you about H. R. 5034. As an avid wine drinker, I am very concerned about provisions outlined in this bill. I am a staunch supporter of our Texas wineries but I also like many wines produced in California. My favorite wine is pinot noir, a varietal that is essentially non-existant in Texas since it prefers cooler growing conditions. Many of my favorites are only available from small producers (less than 3000 cases) who are not available in Texas by the choice of distributors, not the choice of the wineries.
    Provisions in H. R. 5034 would essentially eliminate my access to those wines. The only way I would be able to bring these wines back to Texas to enjoy would be to travel to California and drive them back to Texas myself since I would not be able to even ship them to my home.
    Why? Because distributors want to protect their own business. I like to drink pinot noir priced about $40 a bottle. That bottle’s wholesale cost is roughly $20. The distributor want his $10. That in itself doesn’t bother me. It’s the tactics and justification used that really make me upset by this legislation.
    There is no doubt that this resolution is largely written and sponsored by distribution lobbyists. As someone who has worked in Texas helping craft legislation regarding education policy, I understand how this process works and this is clearly written by someone “in the business” rather than by a legislator. The two parts that make it obvious are as follows:
    1. There are provisions that all but eliminate legal recourse if this passes. Could this be more obvious? Write a piece of legislation that gives your side what they want and at the same time makes it impossible for the other side to fight back. My eight year old son ( who asked me what I was doing writing you) understood how wrong this was when I substituted Lego, Lego Club and Target for Wine, WInery and distributor. My second grader may be smart, but it is pretty bad when he can see how this legislation is flawed.
    2. The tactic of getting the legislation passed under the guise of “minor’s access to alcohol.” Let me phrase it this way – can the sponsors of this bill give you an example of a 17-year old in your congressional district mail-ordering a bottle of $40 California pinot noir so he can get drunk on a Saturday night? Phrased that way, it sounds pretty preposterous doesn’t it. However, that is essentially the basic reason that the bill’s author’s want you to vote for this repressive legislation. I’ll make you a deal. For every documented case of underage purchases of alcohol made though the mail (that were not made by members of distributor’s families) that you can document in your district prior to the day that legislation was filed, I will give you a bottle of that $40 pinot that I will no longer be able to purchase if this legislation passes. I figure at the most, I’ll be out a single bottle. I would guess that there will be more “minor in possession” citations issued around the Texas A&M campus tonight than there are instances of minors mail-ordering alcohol across the entire United States in 2010. It is simply a thinly veiled scare tactic that belongs with unicorns, Bigfoot and the grassy knoll.
    I urge you to give this bill a resounding NO vote if it sees a vote. As a conservative, this is exactly the type of unnecessary governmental intrusion and special interest legislation you campaigned against. Please stay true to your philosophy and vote no on this legislation.
    Monte Mast

    • wineaccguy Says:

      I remember reading your letter earlier, probably from the Facebook page. I especially like the logical dismantling of the reasons behind this passage of this bill. Thanks for taking action on this so quickly.


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