This morning, a long time Texas industry executive who asked to remain nameless sent a link to video testimony pertaining to HB 2537 – legislation to regulate wine production and shipping in Texas, which has many in the Texas wine industry divided. On May 14th Ron Yates, owner of Spicewood Vineyards, and President of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA) went before the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce to offer testimony opposing the bill.
Senator Carona made it clear on public record he wanted to work with Texas wineries on this proposed legislation, but warned against what he perceives as the Texas wine industry’s “rogue attempts to circumvent the law.” The tension between Yates and Senator Carona was subtle but present, as Carona chastised the entire industry, “What you are attempting to do goes against long held public policies of the state.” Candidly adding, “You know what you want to do, but you have no appreciation for where the state’s public policy has been or why it’s been there.”
Yates’s testimony was honest and to the point. He told briefly one of the reasons for opposition, about how HB 2537 would stifle growth of the industry because it would prevent “a continuous cash flow” for wineries first starting out, if they are limited by the wine they can and can’t ship. He gave a first hand account of Spicewood Vineyards which had no inventory at the time of purchase, and no ability to produce wine for the first several years in operation.
Yates explained to the Committee that many wineries rely on selling other winery’s product as a source of income until their vineyards produce and the wine can be made, reminding the Committee that, “wine coming in that we didn’t produce can come in through distributors as well.” It is public knowledge that some of Senator Carona’s top campaign contributors are giants in the beverage distributor industry.
The hearing heats up immediately after Yate’s distributor comment when Senator Carona blatantly tells Yates he’s going to have a hard time advancing their agenda, suggesting TWGGA replace their General Counsel for progress to continue.
For the full testimony and exchange starting at 1:48min, see May 14 Senate Committee on Business and Commerce at this link: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/avarchive/?yr=2013&lim=100