WASHINGTON, D.C. – Independent beer distributors representing all 50 states arrived in Washington, D.C., this week for the 2017 National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) Legislative Conference to educate Congress about America’s system of open and independent beer distribution, which generates competition, builds brands, supports innovation and increases consumer choice.
NBWA Chairman of the Board Paul Bertucci kicked off the conference saying, “Eighty-three years after my grandfather started our companies, this is not my grandfather’s business … we are facing new industry challenges, and we are living in new and different political times. We are navigating disruptions. Yet with all of the new – and all of the unknown – some things haven’t changed.”
“We still take pride in supporting quality jobs – local jobs – jobs that cannot be outsourced,” Bertucci continued. “We still take pride in building relationships with local retailers, and we still take pride in building brands – brands of all sizes, from brewers in all corners of the country and around the globe.”
NBWA President and CEO Craig Purser said that the independence of America’s beer distribution system is generating a Golden Age of Beer. He pointed to the 5,0000 breweries operating in the U.S., 600,000 retailers serviced by distributors, robust marketplace competition and unprecedented consumer choice.
Purser noted that just a few months ago, the largest merger in the beer industry closed. And, prior to its closing, the U.S. Senate held a hearing and the Department of Justice (DOJ) conducted the most comprehensive examination of the beer industry to date. He highlighted that the DOJ’s consent decree specifically recognizes the work that independent distributors do in building brands, emphasizing that the DOJ order states, “Effective distribution is important for a brewer to be competitive in the U.S. beer industry.”
“The DOJ recognizes that independence is essential in promoting competition,” Purser said.
Purser also moderated an industry panel featuring American Beverage Licensees Executive Director John Bodnovich; National Association of Beverage Importers President Bill Earle; Beer Institute President and CEO Jim McGreevy; and Brewers Association CEO Bob Pease.
The panel touched on the outlook for beer; craft and import trends; challenges from other segments of the alcohol industry and trade practice enforcement. The panelists each weighed in on the value of the independent three-tier system in providing a clear chain of custody, preventing the proliferation of counterfeit products and enabling access to scale and a competitive market for all participants.
The beer industry leaders also addressed how the industry can meet the challenge of remaining open and independent as some brewers aggressively seek to expand their retail privileges beyond the premises of their breweries, competing with independent beer bars and bottle shops that helped them get established.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) joined the program as the congressional keynote speaker. As the former attorney general for Nevada, she discussed her experiences with alcohol regulation and law enforcement at the state level and the importance of balancing support for local businesses with promoting alcohol’s safe and responsible consumption.
NBWA Executive Vice President, Government Affairs Laurie Knight also moderated a bipartisan panel of senior congressional staff from both the House and Senate, who shared their insights on the current political climate and what is likely to happen in Congress this year, from tax reform efforts to health care.
As Congress considers comprehensive tax reform, America’s beer distributors are advocating for reform that reduces individual and corporate tax rates in similar manners; treats S corporations and pass-through businesses equitably; avoids the repeal of LIFO inventory accounting; leaves in place appropriate capital cost recovery rules to support and stimulate business investment; provides estate tax relief and preserves estate planning tools that help family businesses plan for the future.
“As Main Street American businesses, we support pro-growth tax reform that would simplify the tax code, lower rates and promote investment,” Purser said. “Distributors want to ensure their businesses can continue to be economic engines for their local communities and can continue supporting 135,000 quality jobs across the country.”
Beer distributors also are asking members of Congress to fund the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to ensure it can regulate the alcohol industry and collect federal excise taxes in an effective manner, especially in light of an increasing number of industry participants and products.
“The TTB – the alcohol industry’s primary federal regulator – isn’t just doing its job – it’s doing it well,” Purser said. “The TTB protects the public by preventing counterfeit, adulterated or illegally-produced products from reaching consumers. It’s also the third-largest revenue-collecting agency in the government, right behind the IRS and Customs and Border Protection.”
“In fact, the TTB is the most efficient tax-collection agency, collecting $436 for every one dollar it spends, which is also why we want to make sure the TTB stays where it is right now – part of the Treasury Department,” Purser added, and not be moved to the IRS as some have suggested.
Additional issues of relevance to beer distributors include multi-employer pension plan reform and withdrawal liability relief for small businesses; the Marketplace Fairness Act and policies that would give states the tools they need to level the playing field between brick-and-mortar businesses and online retailers; and tax credits for natural gas vehicles.
Attendees also heard from the leaders of three national associations who joined Purser for a discussion of “Disruption and Advocacy: Turning Headwinds into Tailwinds.” American Gaming Association President & CEO Geoff Freeman; National Retail Federation President & CEO Matt Shay; and National Automobile Dealers Association President Peter Welch described how their industries are dealing with interruption and challenges to their business models, along with how they are evolving their advocacy efforts.
The program also included an update on the NBWA Next Generation Group and a presentation from Chris Stirewalt, politics editor for Fox News Channel, who discussed how to navigate today’s political waters in Washington and across the country.
The NBWA Legislative Conference continues tomorrow with remarks by Congressman Kevin Brady (TX-8), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who will provide an update on congressional tax reform efforts as beer distributors head to the Hill for nearly 400 meetings with their elected representatives.
The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) represents the interests of America’s 3,300 licensed, independent beer distributor operations in every state, congressional district and media market across the country. Beer distributors are committed to ensuring alcohol is provided safely and responsibly to consumers of legal drinking age through the three-tier, state-based system of alcohol regulation and distribution. To learn more about America’s beer distributors, visit www.AmericasBeerDistributors.com. For additional updates from NBWA, follow @NBWABeer on Twitter, like NBWA on Facebook, follow NBWA on Instagram and subscribe to NBWA’s YouTube channel.