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Legislators mull allowing farm wineries to sell direct

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Indiana lawmakers will begin discussing on Wednesday the possibility and potential effects of allowing Indiana farm wineries to sell and ship directly to retailers and dealers.

The wine industry in Indiana is growing, but wineries can’t sell their own wine unless they have a micro wholesaler permit. Winery owners and industry representatives say that needs to change.

The Interim Study Committee on Economic Development is required to study farm winery issues and other topics as a result of legislation passed during the most recent session of the General Assembly.

Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, who chairs the committee, said it’s important for the committee to study the issue because wine is becoming a greater source of “revenue both at the local and state level.”

“Indiana’s becoming a larger and larger contributor to the wine industry,” he said.

But while the industry is growing, wineries can’t self-distribute unless they have a micro wholesaler permit, which representatives of wineries say is often expensive to maintain and can mean splitting up a family business.

While giving testimony during the most recent session on the legislation that requires this study, Lisa Hays, who serves as counsel for the Indiana Winery and Vineyard Association, said “it doesn’t make economic sense to ask a middleman to drive a long way to an Indiana winery just to pick up a few cases of wine to take down the road to the nearby family-owned restaurant.”

Hays said allowing wineries to sell their product directly would fill an economic gap and let Indiana wineries do what more than 95 percent of wineries across the country can already do.

This topic is one of about 20 items the committee will be studying before the next session of the General Assembly begins in January. Buck said the committee will have about five more meetings before making a summary of its findings and voting on what it will recommend.
 

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