Schumer talks taxes at Brewery Ommegang

Erin Jerome | The Daily StarU.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., discusses tax cuts for small breweries at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown. At left are Ommegang president Doug Campbell, Otsego County board vice chair Gary Koutnik and chair David Bliss.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., visited Brewery Ommegang on Tuesday to announce his support of a plan to aid small breweries that includes permanently reducing taxes.

Schumer said that the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act has bipartisan support in Congress and is likely to pass into law this year. The legislation would make permanent tax cuts for small brewers that are set to expire in 2019.

“It's a great industry for us here in the Southern Tier; craft brewing is growing by leaps and bounds,” Schumer said. He explained that small brewers and distilleries that produce fewer than 60,000 barrels a year would continue to pay a $3.50 excise tax per barrel instead of $7, and slightly larger breweries would also retain slashed rates.

Ommegang produces 40,000 to 45,000 barrels a year and has already saved about $150,000 from the tax cuts, president Doug Campbell confirmed.

Schumer said he would also push for more funding for the Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau, which he said is understaffed with federal inspectors who review and approve now-delayed permit applications needed by breweries, wineries and distilleries to expand and sell their products.

Campbell said that craft brewing is known to be “a famously inefficient industry,” and said that more TTB resources, along with tax cuts, would help level the playing field with brewing giants.

Ommegang recently reopened after a $2 million renovation that included expanding the tap house, cafe and retail space and installing a new 4,000-square-foot covered patio. The project was supported by a state grant of $525,000. Campbell said that tax savings also allowed the brewery to be more ambitious in the renovations.

Otsego County Board of Representatives Vice Chair Gary Koutnik praised Ommegang as a local success in small business and niche agriculture.

New York state now has 400 breweries, eclipsing a record set in 1876, according to a February announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. According to a report conducted by Stonebridge Research Group for the New York Wine and Grape Foundation and New York State Brewers Association, the craft beer industry had a total economic impact of nearly $3.5 billion and supported more than 11,000 jobs in 2013.

Erin Jerome, staff writer, may be reached at (607) 441-7221, or at ejerome@thedailystar.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DS_ErinJ .