Schumer visits cidery, rips new regulation

Julie Lewis | The Daily Star

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., jokes with Awestruck Cider co-founders Patti Wilcox and Casey Vitti during a press conference at the company's plant in Sidney on Tuesday.

Bubble, bubble, hard cider trouble?

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., visited Awestruck Cider in Sidney on Tuesday to publicly call on the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to reverse pending regulation that Schumer said would hurt a thriving hard cider industry.

Schumer lambasted the bureau for its proposal to mandate that cider producers label their products above a certain alcohol content with the terms “sparkling” or “carbonated.”

“Simply put, this does nothing but misidentify local cider products and makes it harder for smaller companies to compete with their competitors,” Schumer said in a prepared statement.

Arguing that it is a burdensome over-regulation, Schumer called the mandate “idiotic.” Beer is hard cider's natural competitor, he said, not sparkling wine and champagne. Cider companies and Schumer agree that such labeling regulation would confuse consumers.

Hard cider is a growing and successful industry in New York state, Schumer said, having grown 300 percent in the last five years. There are 90 cideries in New York, according to the New York Cider Association, the most of any state.

Schumer is the author of the CIDER Act of 2014, which increased the allowed alcohol-by-volume limits and altered the tax classification of hard cider, removing it from higher-taxed sparkling wine and champagne products to instead tax it in the bracket of its competitors, beer and wine.

New York has eased taxes on the industry and promoted it as an economic driver in the state. The New York Cider Association stated that in 2017 hard cider contributed more than $100 million to the state including output and labor.

Awestruck began in Walton in 2013. Three years ago it expanded and moved its facilities to Sidney. Owners Patti Wilcox and Casey Vitti, who are both from Delaware County, said they wanted to boost the economic viability of the county.

“We're gobsmacked that Schumer came here today,” Wilcox said. “We've always known he's an avid supporter of cider in the state and we're glad to have his help.”

Awestruck employs 16 people and produces around 4,000 gallons of hard cider a month using apples grown in Wayne County and the Hudson Valley region, Wilcox told the Daily Star. She said the company will launch cans in August, hoping to double production.

Delaware County Economic Development Director Glenn Nealis, Delaware County Chamber of Commerce President Ray Pucci, Delaware County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Tina Molé, Village of Sidney Grants Administrator John Redente, Sidney Mayor Andy Matviak and Sidney Town Supervisor Gene Pigford were also in attendance.

Whitney Bashaw, staff writer, can be reached at (607) 441-7218 or wbashaw@thedailystar.com . Follow her on Twitter @DS_WhitneyB .

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