The Iowa House has given final legislative approval to a bill sought by the state’s wine industry. Representative Betty De Boef, a Republican from What Cheer, says the state’s wine industry is growing and could have a big economic impact on the state.
“Wineries not only produce wine but they become destination attractions for many things such as wine tasting events, weddings and tours,” De Boef says. “This type of economic stimulation is desperately needed in rural Iowa and it is important that the legislature provide the tools to enable the industry to become competitive and successful.”
The bill eases government inspection rules. Wineries would no longer be classified as “food processing plants” because the nature of the wine fermentation process makes such inspections unnecessary, according to De Boef. De Boef also says the bill allows wineries to represent the alcoholic content of their wines as it’s done in other states.
The amount of alcohol in alcoholic beverages is measured in two ways: weight or volume. Iowa has always measured it by weight, but most states and the federal government use the volume measurement. The bill falls short of all the wine industry wanted, though. Iowa vineyard owners wanted to blend out-of-state wine with their locally-grown crush and be able to label the wine as Iowa wine.
“Most of our wineries cannot grow enough wine to be able to sell in any kind of volume at all, so they’ve been asking us for the opportunity to blend the product,” De Boef says. But the Senate refused to go along with that.
Representative Mark Davitt, a Democrat from Indianola, suggests that issue will be revisited. “We should note that this industry is in its budding stages and if we are to be narrow-minded about it, or tunnel-visioned about the excellence of Iowa wine, that tunnel should be big enough to drive the world through,” Davitt says.
De Boef calls vineyards ‘value-added” agriculture. “Whereas an acre of corn might produce a gross income of $400 per acre annually, an acre of grape vines may product $4,000,” De Boef says. “The wine made from this acre of grapes could sell for as much as $30,000.” The bill passed the House 96-to-zero. The bill has already cleared the Senate and is on its way to Governor Vilsack’s desk for his approval.