Brewery Owner Testifies on Expanding Trade and Eliminating Barriers to U.S. Exports

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Yesterday, Heather McClung, Washington Brewers Guild president and co-founder of Schooner EXACT Brewing Company in Seattle, Wash., testified in front of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade about her brewery’s participation in the Brewers Association Export Development Program, and the program’s importance to craft brewers and their agricultural partners.

The hearing was held to discuss how Congress can help expand agricultural trade by eliminating barriers to American exporters. McClung was joined by witnesses from the Minnesota Farm Bureau, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council and the Foreman Fruit Company. They covered topics that ranged from geographic indicators to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

In his opening testimony Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert of Washington State noted that, “Agricultural exports are not limited to what is grown, raised and harvested in America. Just as important are the products made from what farms produce.” Later in the hearing the chairman made note of the innovation he has seen when visting a few of Washington State’s 300 plus breweries.

In her testimony, McClung discussed how Schooner EXACT, who joined the Export Development Program less than a year into their brewery’s production, has benefited from participating. After their first event, the two-day American Craft Beer Experience in Japan, their sales climbed 29 percent. The restaurant-brewery now produces beer to sell in Washington, Oregon and Japan. Exports continue to contribute to the overall industry growth.

McClung also focused on the importance of quality ingredients noting that, “Hop varietal development increasingly allows world beer consumers to have the opportunity to taste the creativity and diversity of American agriculture.”

As the hearing continued, McClung was asked follow up questions about her testimony. Representatives Reichert (R-WA) and Blumenauer (D-OR) asked about potential barriers to entry that would keep a small brewer from participating in the Export Development Program. McClung responded that, “a large barrier would be the amount of package product needed could be prohibitive to a small brewer. But that it could be mitigated through the Small Business Administration’s export assistance program and through invigorating small breweries with an excise tax reduction, H.R. 2903 (Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act), which would enable small brewers to invest in the additional packaging and equipment needed to fulfill volumes for export.”

Representatives Kelly (R-PA) and Paulsen (R-MN), who both mentioned the excellent craft breweries in their states, were interested in hearing how breweries participating in the Export Development Program would help to create jobs and opportunities in the U.S. McClung shared that, “expanded trade would obviously mean increased sales and allow for a diversified revenue stream, which would lead to additional employment opportunities in our community. It would also help allied industries such as producers of equipment like stainless steel producers and packaging equipment.”

Brewers Association data shows that for every job produced in the craft brewing industry there is the opportunity for an additional 12.5 jobs to be created in packaging, machinery and other industries.

McClung also mentioned that the Export Development Program gives American craft brewers the chance to be seen on an international stage. The program allowed Schooner EXACT to enter Brussels Beer Challenge where they won a gold medal and overall best in show for their Hopvine IPA. “It (winning international competitions) raises the profile of all American craft beers and is a testament to the exporting program.”