printer iconPrinter-friendly Version

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 22, 2012

SCHUMER: FOREIGN TRADE RULES ARE BLOCKING GROWTH AND JOB CREATION AT ULSTER COUNTY WHISKEY DISTILLERY



SCHUMER: FOREIGN TRADE RULES ARE BLOCKING GROWTH AND JOB CREATION AT ULSTER COUNTY WHISKEY DISTILLERY

To Help Local Company Tap Huge Market, Schumer Calls on U.S. Trade Representative To Help Open European Market To Tuthilltown Spirits, Creating Local Jobs

Schumer: Hudson Valley’s Own Tuthilltown Whiskey Deserves To Be On European Shelves, Move Would Help Grow Jobs

 

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the U.S. Trade Representative to aggressively work to change restrictive foreign regulations that operate as trade barriers that are standing in the way of job growth at an Ulster County whiskey distillery. Currently, any distillery looking to sell their product as “whiskey” in Europe must age their whiskey for at least three years. Tuthilltown Spirits, however, uses a high-tech process that speeds up the distilling and aging timeframe, which means that their whiskey is produced in less than six months. Despite the fact that Europe’s restrictions are meant to prevent cheap knock-offs from entering the marketplace, the rules are actually preventing Tuthilltown from selling their products in Europe, even though the whiskey they produce meets the same quality standards as other whiskeys currently on the market. In a personal letter to the U.S. Trade Representative, Schumer urged him to push the Europeans to remove this unfair restriction, allowing Tuthilltown to tap this market that promises job growth and increased revenue.

 

“Tuthilltown Spirits makes a fine product, but these rules meant to keep cheap knock-offs out of European stores are unfairly punishing a terrific New York distillery,” said Schumer. “Tuthilltown shouldn’t be penalized for developing and implementing a high-tech, state-of-the-art distilling process that allows them to produce greater amounts of high-quality whiskey. Knocking back these restrictive rules would be a shot in the arm for Ulster County jobs, and help a job-creating business bring even more economic activity to the Hudson Valley.”

“Removing the word whiskey from Hudson Baby Bourbon labels in the EU raises Tuthilltown's costs and forces the company to rely on word-of-mouth to educate European consumers about its products,” said Mike Oates Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation CEO Mike Oates. “The EU's three-year aging requirement for whiskey essentially functions as a trade barrier that severely limits Tuthilltown's access to the EU market. HVEDC and the Hudson Valley Food & Beverage Alliance is thrilled by Senator Schumer's leadership and efforts on this issue. All we are asking for is a level playing field. We know that when our products have equal access to markets the quality of our products will win out in the end"

 

Following a tour of the distillery today joined by distillery owners Ralph and Gable Erenzo, Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation CEO Mike Oates, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and distillery employees, Schumer noted that the European Union’s whiskey regulations are unfair trade barriers, and place Tuthilltown Spirits at a significant competitive disadvantage. Despite the fact that the U.S. does not have an aging requirement, the European Union has declared that all whiskey sold under a whiskey label in European stores must have aged for at least three years. The primary motivation behind this rule is to keep out cheap, knock-off products that are simply mass-produced as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the rule also keeps out Tuthilltown Spirits’ product, despite the fact that it is sufficiently aged through a high-tech process, and distilled from 100% New York corn. The distillery uses special American Oak barrels, and is considered whiskey here in the United States.

 

Due to the EU’s overly restrictive standards, a potentially lucrative market that could lead to job growth in the Hudson Valley is off limits to Tuthilltown Spirits. The EU regulations would force Tuthilltown to re-label their products as something other than whiskey if they seek to sell it in Europe. The EU’s overly restrictive whiskey regulations operate as a type of non-tariff barrier, creating significant disadvantages from a marketing and competition perspective, as well as adding significant economic costs for companies, like Tuthilltown Spirits, trying to sell into the EU market. Schumer also noted that overturning this EU trade barrier could provide other economic benefits to New York as well, as demand for corn, shipping, bottling, and labeling would all increase if Tuthilltown were able to tap the European market.

 

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to Trade Representative Ron Kirk appears below:

 

The Honorable Ron Kirk

U.S. Trade Representative

600 17th Street, NW

Washington, DC  20508

 

Dear Ambassador Kirk,

 

I write to express concern about trade barriers that create obstacles for U.S. producers that want to export their merchandise overseas. Burdensome foreign regulations and standards negatively impact large, established U.S. industries, as well as newer, niche producers like New York’s Tuthilltown Spirits. Tuthilltown’s attempts to expand sales of its prize-winning whiskey to the European Union have been stymied by the EU’s whiskey aging requirement. The EU’s continued stonewalling of U.S. efforts to resolve this issue is deeply concerning, and I respectfully ask that you continue to press the EU to eliminate its inflexible aging standard, as well as other burdensome regulations that limit U.S. producers’ access to the EU market.

 

In recent years, New York has seen a mini-boom in the startup of micro-distilleries, often associated with an existing winery or fruit farm and committed to using New York-grown grains and fruits. With an estimated two dozen small-batch distillers, New York is home to one of the largest concentrations of artisanal distilleries in the country.  Tuthilltown Spirits, located in Gardiner, New York, is one of the success stories, bringing the tradition of small batch distillation back to the Hudson Valley. Tuthilltown’s award-winning “Hudson Baby Bourbon” is distilled from 100 percent New York corn and uses special American Oak barrels in its innovative aging process, which takes less than six months to complete. New York micro-distillers like Tuthilltown want to grow their exports to the EU, but are effectively shut out of the lucrative EU market by burdensome regulations and standards.

 

In this case, it is Tuthilltown’s innovative aging process that runs afoul of a specific EU regulation. Specifically, the EU requires that whiskey be aged for a minimum of three years to qualify as “whiskey.” This means that U.S. distillers like Tuthilltown cannot market and sell their whiskey as “whiskey” in the EU and are forced to design specific labels for the EU market that do not identify the product as “whiskey.” It goes without saying that requiring EU-specific labels increases production and marketing costs and makes it more difficult for U.S. distillers to market their products effectively, and I urge you to press the EU to eliminate its restrictive aging requirement for whiskey.

 

The additional burden and costs on Tuthilltown Spirits and other U.S. micro-distillers to participate in the EU market has a direct impact not only on American workers, but also on other agri-business in rural and farming communities across the country. Eliminating barriers that impede Tuthilltown and other U.S. micro-distillers’ access to the EU market would create growth opportunities and help secure and create American jobs. The United States does not maintain a minimum aging requirement for whiskey; nor should the EU.  Burdensome foreign regulations and standards frustrate U.S. producers’ efforts to grow exports, and I respectfully ask that you work to eliminate the EU’s inflexible whiskey aging requirement, as well as other non-tariff barriers that obstruct access to the EU market.

 

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I ask that you please keep me apprised of developments on this issue.

 

 

###

Resource Center
chuck around new york icon
Chuck in New York
See what Chuck has been doing in
your area lately
Casework Icon
Services for New Yorkers
For help cutting through the federal government's red tape
Tours Icon
Schedule a Tour
Plan your trip to Washington D.C.
Veterans Icon
Veterans Assistance
Help for those who have served our nation
Protecting Consumers icon
Protecting Consumers
Help and Resources for New York consumers
Grants Assistance icon
Grants Assistance
Guide to applying for federal grants
Financial aid assistance icon
Financial Aid Assistance
Guide to applying for federal financial aid
e-newsletter icon
facebook icon
twitter icon
youtube icon
flickr icon
CMF Bronze Mouse Award for the 111th Congress