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How Will a Trump Presidency Affect the Wine Industry?

December 2016
by Jane Firstenfeld

Washington, D.C.—With the 2016 election over, what can the wine industry expect from the president elect? Though the Trump family owns a winery in Virginia, Donald Trump is a self-proclaimed teetotaler.

“We are into the unknown,” said Michael Kaiser, director of public affairs for winery trade association WineAmerica. “Everything will have to be rebooted.” While the Republican party now holds power over the office of the president, Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, Kaiser had some reassuring words: “Wine is a non-partisan issue. Everybody likes it; we want to enjoy that neutrality.”

Kaiser detailed potential legal/legislative changes that may be influenced in the upcoming years.

Immigration reform: With immigrant workers a major source of agricultural labor, promised deportations and border barriers may have significant ramifications. WineAmerica does not support the incoming administration’s plan. “We feel it is the wrong way to go, and we would like to see H2-A reform, a better guest worker program, etc.,” Kaiser told Wines & Vines.

Trade: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), a priority for the Obama administration, was supported by the wine industry but already is “on life support,” according to Kaiser.

The environment: Many agriculture groups will be happy to learn that the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule, which would have given more control to the EPA, also is likely to die under the new Trump administration, according to Kaiser.

Excise taxes: Another issue WineAmerica has lobbied for heavily is an excise tax reform bill. “We did think we had a chance of getting that in an omnibus appropriations bill, but I think Congress will be doing the bare minimum during this session and then start again next year. So I think that will need to be reintroduced in a new Congress. There is talk for a large tax reform proposal next year,” Kaiser said.

Kaiser doesn’t anticipate major changes to the TTB, noting that John Manfreda has served as its director under both the Bush and Obama administrations. The bureau received an increase of $5 million to add label-review staff, and the current funding will remain in place. The TTB’s new regulation removing bond requirements for wineries with less than $50,000 in excise tax liability becomes effective Jan. 1, 2017, but most wineries affected will need amended permits.

In San Francisco, Wine Institute director of media relations Gladys Horiuchi said, “Wine Institute’s priorities remain unchanged. With the new administration, we will continue to pursue our agenda, which includes lowering federal excise taxes on wine, expanding export opportunities though passage of international trade agreements and comprehensive immigration reform.”

A view from The Hill
U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, a longtime Congressman for much of California’s North Coast 5th district, issued a statement to his constituents that contained the following comments about immigration.

“I will continue to work for comprehensive immigration reform that honors our heritage as a nation of immigrants, provides a path to citizenship for those who come to our country in search of a better life, and protects the families who are already valued members of our communities.”

Can’t we all just get along?

That was the headline for a news bulletin from the Saqui Law Group, advising California employers that although the election is over, discussions are not. “Regardless of personal political beliefs, it is important for employers to remember that an employer’s political talk in the workplace can expose the company to liability. Political debate often brings up polarizing topics, for example immigration or religion. Employees may feel unwelcome in the workplace when their political beliefs or their candidates of choice do not align with their employer’s, potentially leading to claims of discrimination or retaliation.”

The authors counseled management to use caution when addressing political topics to avoid making employees feel unwelcome in the workplace and exposing the company to liability. Management must avoid crossing the fine line between business and politics, they wrote, and be mindful when discussing their personal thoughts to be sure their comments cannot be perceived as discriminatory or threatening.

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