Fast-growing wine, craft beer industries generating supportive legislation throughout Midwest
But today, ethanol isn’t the only alcohol being produced in this region. There has been big growth in the beer and wine industry, a trend that is allowing for more diversity in farm production and helping expand local and statewide agri-tourism.
“Farmers markets benefit from having a diverse array of products, and producers benefit because alcohol tastings improve [their] ability to promote and increase sales,” explains Jen O’Brien, executive director of the national Farmers Market Coalition.
About 50 percent of Michigan’s farmers markets have now opened to winery sampling and sales, according to Linda Jones, executive director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.
“Fifteen small wineries have taken advantage of the opportunity,” she explains.
Under the current law, the farmers-market option is limited to wineries producing less than 5,000 gallons annually. Legislation has also been introduced to allow microbrewers to serve samples at farmers markets.
The Grape and Wine Industry Council itself, in fact, is an example of the states’ increased role; it is an 11-member group established by the Legislature to promote Michigan’s wine and grape-growing industries. SB 27 also begins to address one of the obstacles that smaller brewers and winemakers across the country face in trying to market their products.
Under the three-tiered marketing system that developed after Prohibition was lifted, producers typically sell to distributors, who then sell to retailers. Smaller producers often don’t produce enough volume for wholesalers to carry their product.
Farmers markets, then, are an example of how to facilitate a direct producer-consumer connection. In Michigan, too, small wineries have become part of regional wine trails that attract out-of-state visitors — another way to facilitate a producer-consumer link.
And last year, Michigan lawmakers passed a series of bills designed to expand the state’s craft beer industry. For example, the production threshold for microbrewers was doubled, to 60,000 barrels per year (one of the highest caps in the nation). The statutory changes also relaxed limitations on dual ownership of a brewpub and microbrewery and allowed for microbrewers to self-distribute.
|Stateline Midwest - March 2015||1.65 MB|