02.14.19

SCHUMER ANNOUNCES: AFTER WEEKS OF WAITING – AND JUST DAYS AFTER SENATOR’S MAJOR PUSH – FEDS HAVE FINALLY APPROVED GENESEE BREWERY’S OUTSTANDING PRODUCT APPLICATIONS; SAYS VITAL APPROVALS WILL KEEP GENESEE BREWERY OUT OF FINANCIAL JEOPARDY & ADD MILLIONS TO ROCHESTER-FINGER LAKES ECONOMY

With TTB Shuttered For Over A Month During Last Month’s Shutdown, Rochester-Finger Lakes Breweries, Distilleries & Wineries – Including Genesee Brewery – Were Unable To Secure Crucial Labeling & Other Approvals For New & Current Products, Placing Businesses At Risk of Costly Loss

With The Critical Summer Selling Season Fast Approaching & Another Potential Government Shutdown Looming, Schumer Today Reveals TTB Has Heeded His Calls, Approved Dozens Of Genesee Brewery’s Outstanding Applications

Schumer Says: That Genessee Brewery Is No Longer Tangled In Bureaucratic Red Tape Is Something We Can All Drink To

U.S. Senator Charles. E. Schumer today announced that, following his push, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has approved Genesee Brewery’s all 42 outstanding applications. Schumer explained that the Genesee Brewery’s parent company FIFCO USA had been facing significant financial loss due to delays in receiving these routine approvals from TTB, as it was one of the shuttered agencies during the 35-day government shutdown. TTB also approved a backlogged operating permit for Homer Hops Brewing in Cortland County, which was highlighted in Schumer’s letter. Schumer applauded TTB for their timely response to this pressing issue and said that with it now resolved, Genesee will be able to get their new products on the shelves in time for the extremely profitable summer sales season, bringing in revenue to both Genesee and the Rochester-Finger Lakes economy.

“The federal TTB expeditiously clearing Genesee Brewery’s backlog of outstanding approvals is great news for both the brewery and the entire Rochester-Finger Lakes economy,” said Senator Schumer. “With this pressing problem resolved, the Genesee Brewery will make sure their products are back on the shelves in time for the hot and high-selling summer months. I was proud to help get these applications approved, and will keep working with other Rochester-Finger Lakes beverage companies to clear the backlog and get their applications approved by TTB as well.”

“Cheers to Senator Schumer who has, once again, come through for the New York beer industry. This is a critical time for local breweries to get approval to bring their new products and packages to market in time for summer,” said Mary Beth Popp, Director of Corporate Relations, FIFCO USA. “With the Senator’s help, we went from being backlogged to approved! We can now start ordering packaging and brewing beer and flavored malt beverages. It’s back to business as usual!”

Schumer said that TTB approvals are required for nearly every pivotal step in establishing and operating a brewery, winery or distillery. Additionally, he noted that approvals are required before a business can open, make a new product or label products.

Schumer explained that TTB’s backlog due to the government shutdown impacted producers large and small in New York’s beer industry, which includes over 420 breweries producing over $4 billion in annual economic impact. Schumer said that breweries had been especially harmed by the shutdown, as many rely on quickly securing TTB labeling approvals to sell new products, including seasonal beers. According to a recent press release from TTB, the label approvals backlog doubled during the shutdown to nearly 10,000 label approval requests.

Schumer said that delays in bringing these beers to market cause significant opportunity costs to brewers. For example, FIFCO USA, which includes the Genesee Brewery, the state’s oldest brewery that employs over 500 workers in Rochester, NY as well as Labatt USA and the Labatt Brew House in Buffalo, NY were at risk of losing millions in sales during the upcoming peak summer selling season, which accounts for 60% of annual commercial volume. Schumer explained that the approval of the 42 product registrations on-hold may have prevented Genesee and Labatt USA from bringing these products to market during the crucial summer selling season. Among the products in limbo are new products that took years to develop and are planned to be launched wide in 40 states starting this summer.

Homer Hops Brewing in Cortland County, New York was awaiting a federal operating permit from TTB needed to launch a multi-barrel brewery and tasting room. The family-and-friends-owned business will produce over 15 beer recipes made from local ingredients under New York State’s Farm Brewery program. Homer Hops Brewing submitted its application for a federal operating permit in November 2018, but was told approvals could be delayed due to the shutdown. Without federal approvals, Homer Hops Brewing had already canceled events they were set to participate in and faced concerns it would be forced to delay the opening of its brewery and tasting room. However, after Schumer’s request, Homer Hops received its operating license from TTB.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to TTB appears below.

I write on behalf of New York State’s hundreds of beer, wine, and distilling businesses that are now facing significant financial loss due to delays in obtaining routine approvals from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) as a result of the thirty-five day government shutdown last month. Many of these businesses are confronting financial jeopardy if TTB is unable to expeditiously clear its approval backlog now that government has reopened.  As the potential for another government shutdown looms, I urge TTB to exercise its discretion, as TTB has done before following exceptional events, to clear the backlog and quickly process applications from these businesses. 

TTB approvals are required for nearly every pivotal step in establishing and operating a brewery, winery or distillery and are vital for a business to open and make or label a new product. However, TTB’s backlog due to the government shutdown impacted producers large and small in New York’s beer industry, which includes over 420 breweries producing over $4 billion in annual economic impact. Breweries have been especially harmed by the shutdown, as many rely on quickly securing TTB labeling approvals to sell new products, including seasonal beers. TTB’s most recent press release indicates that the label approvals backlog doubled during the shutdown to nearly 10,000 label approval requests. Delays in bringing these beers to market cause significant opportunity costs to brewers.  For example, Genesee Brewery, the state’s oldest brewery that employs over 500 workers in Rochester, NY as well as Labatt USA and the Labatt Brew House in Buffalo, NY are at risk of losing millions in sales during the upcoming peak summer selling season, which accounts for 60% of annual commercial volume, unless TTB acts on 42 applications the brewery filed prior to the shutdown.  The lack of TTB approval of the 42 product registrations on-hold prevents Genesee and Labatt from bringing these products to market during the crucial summer selling season. Among the products in limbo are new products that took years to develop and are planned to be launched wide in 40 states starting this summer. 

Similarly, several of New York’s small craft breweries have been forced to delay the launch of their products, creating costly losses. Homer Hops Brewing in Cortland County, New York is awaiting a federal operating permit from TTB needed to launch a multi-barrel brewery and tasting room. The family-and-friends-owned business will produce over 15 beer recipes made from local ingredients under New York State’s Farm Brewery program. Homer Hops Brewing submitted its application for a federal operating permit in November 2018, but has already canceled events they were set to participate in or host as its permit approval has been delayed.

New York’s alcohol beverage industry makes up 420 breweries, 400 wineries, 40 cideries and 100 distilleries and is a major economic driver that hinges on TTB support. In recent years I have pushed for increased funding for the TTB to hire additional federal inspectors to review applications and worked to implement policies that streamline approvals needed by distilleries, breweries, and wineries. Unfortunately, the backlog caused by the recent government shutdown disadvantages small and large businesses alike. I ask that you take the necessary steps to quickly move through the backlog so that the industry can continue to thrive.

Specifically, I ask that TTB:

  1. To the extent possible, redirect additional staff to process the backlogged label, formula, and permit applications until TTB has reached its processing time goals
  2. Authorize additional overtime until TTB is able to again meet its ten-day service standard for formula and label approvals
  3. Use its enforcement discretion with businesses in good standing who continued business activity during the shutdown to stay in business  

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

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