Last week, the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA), legislation championed by the Brewers Association, received its 51st sponsor in the Senate, Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. A few days later she was joined by Senator Barbara Boxer of California. Thanks to these two senators, the legislation now has more than 50 percent of the United States Congress as co-sponsors of the bill. With more than 20,000 pieces of legislation introduced in a typical legislative session, this is no small feat. The following are reasons why CBMTRA has received such broad bipartisan support.
Many of you may remember the start of the 114th Congress and the Small BREW Act, a great bill that would have lowered the federal excise tax for any brewery that produces fewer than six million barrels of beer a year. The bill had good support, but it was not without opposition. Other groups within the alcohol beverage world opposed the legislation and actively campaigned against it. Our friends in Congress reached out to us to let us know that they would love to see us work on a bill that helped all interested parties. Because the Brewers Association was willing to work with our legislative champions and other associations, we were able to keep crucial parts of the Small BREW Act and add them to a larger bill. CBMTRA will cut in half the federal excise tax on the first 60,000 barrels of any domestic brewery that produces fewer than two million barrels a year and would lower the federal excise tax on barrelage up to six million from $18/barrel to $16/barrel. Our willingness to compromise helped us get what we wanted legislatively and earned the support of many other industries.
In addition to the Brewers Association, CBMTRA is supported by the Beer Institute, Wine America, Wine Institute, Distilled Spirits Council, American Craft Spirits Association, Hop Growers of America, National Association of Barley Growers, Corn Growers of America, Canning Manufacturers Institute, Glass Packaging Institute, and more. Like the BA, each of these industries has its champions and advocates. Having a broad coalition that spans multiple industries shows the overwhelming benefits of the bill. In September, the alcohol industry members of the coalition held a reception in support of CBMTRA.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again. As constituents, members of the craft brewing industry hold amazing power in Washington, D.C. You are job creators and active members of your community. The legislative issues that we support benefit when Congress hears what you have to say.
Emails: The Brewers Association has a user-friendly online form for brewery owners and operators. It automatically populates with your specific information and sends an email in support of legislation to your representatives and senators. Since we introduced the form, thousands of people have used it. We promote it throughout the year and, with the help of the state brewers guilds, we are able to target legislators on a state-by-state basis.
Hill Climbs: Just as important as email outreach is face-to-face contact with the legislators and staff who are working on the issues in D.C. When you come to Washington to meet with them, you are able to build and grow your relationships with members of Congress. The week after our most recent hill climb, we added 17 new legislators to CBMTRA. This was a direct result of the hill climb. Follow-up from the hill climb netted an additional 16 sponsors in the month of June.
4. Continued Outreach
Events: In September, the alcohol industry members of the CBMTRA coalition held a reception in support of the bill. The event was attended by multiple members of Congress. Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN), the lead Republican sponsor of the legislation, spoke about the benefits of the bill. In addition, the BA holds multiple events supporting state societies and the Small Brewers Caucuses to educate Congress about our industry, ensuring that members of Congress are reminded that there are more than 4,800 craft brewers operating across the country.
Brewery Visits: I’m sure many of you have seen the video of one of the candidates for vice president playing his harmonica at a brewery in his state. He is not an outlier when it comes to visiting breweries for campaigning purposes. Breweries are fantastic businesses to visit on the campaign trail. They are local, they have a broad fan base from millennials to retirees, they are small businesses that employ constituents, and they are fun! Inviting a member of Congress to visit your brewery is a great way to help continue outreach on CBMTRA. If they are already a sponsor, it shows them that you appreciate their support and that you want them to vote for the bill when given the chance. If they aren’t yet a sponsor, it is a great way to have some one-on-one time with them and their staff to talk about your brewery and how it impacts your community.
5. You, Craft Brewery Owners and Employees
More than 50 percent of Congress is sponsoring the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act because of you. You are an important part of their states and districts and you’ve made it clear that CBMTRA will have a positive impact on your brewery. Without your actions, we wouldn’t have the support we do for this legislation. So thank you for all you do and keep up the great work!