On Monday, May 17, Representatives Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) introduced the United States Postal Service (USPS) Shipping Equity Act, bipartisan legislation that would allow the USPS to ship alcohol in states where it is currently legal to do so.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic and government-mandated business closures and restrictions, small and independent breweries have seen consumer demand increase for products delivered directly to their front door. A consumer survey by SOVOS Ship Compliant and Harris Poll found that 84% of regular craft beer drinkers – defined as those who drink craft beer at least once per month – want to be able to legally purchase beer via direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipping to their homes. Additionally, the survey found that more than 73% say the pandemic has increased their interest in purchasing craft beer via DtC shipping.
To meet that demand, we have seen state laws expanding to allow shipping and delivery of alcohol products, as well as allowing alcohol “to-go” at restaurant and bars. The USPS Shipping Equity Act would help small and independent breweries, wineries, and distilleries meet that demand by allowing the postal service to provide another method of getting their product to market.
The USPS Shipping Equity Act supports consumer choice and offers producers – many of whom are in rural or remote areas – the opportunity to reach their adult customers that may otherwise be unable to purchase the product locally or travel to acquire it. As such, DtC shipping serves as an important complement to the traditional three-tier system of beverage alcohol distribution.
The legislation clearly states that it would not supersede state regulation, and only offer the USPS the opportunity to compete in DtC shipping where it is already in effect. Nor does it make any changes to federal excise tax collection or prevent state and local authorities from regulating beverage alcohol products. It also ensures that the USPS would abide by strong safeguards (e.g., identification checks) to prevent underage consumption of alcohol by minors.
“The Brewers Association applauds the introduction of the USPS Shipping Equity Act. The pandemic has shown the increased demand for direct-to-consumer delivery of beer, and the viability of shipping as a way for breweries to get a broad variety of their product to market. As alcohol shipping laws become commonplace in more states, consumers, small and independent breweries, and the postal service would all benefit if the USPS could legally and safely ship alcohol in states where it is legal to do so,” said Bob Pease, President and CEO of the Brewers Association.
Currently, 13 states and Washington, D.C. allow breweries to ship beverage alcohol products using private carriers. Allowing the USPS to compete in this market would be beneficial to breweries and consumers, and also generate much-needed new revenue streams for the USPS. Estimates suggest that the USPS could gain $180 million annually in revenue through the shipping of beverage alcohol where permitted by state and local laws. In addition to the Brewers Association, the legislation also has the support of the American Craft Spirits Association, American Mead Makers Association, American Postal Workers Union, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, National Association of Postal Supervisors, National Postal Mail Handlers Union, National Rural Letter Carriers Association, United Postmasters and Managers of America, and WineAmerica.