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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Schumer: Open up alcohol shipping

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  • WASHINGTON | Sen. Charles Schumer said Wednesday he's pushing hard to make it possible for wineries and breweries to ship their products through the U.S. Postal Service.
    The current law, in place since 1909, makes it illegal for wine and beer producers to ship their products through the post office, forcing them to turn to private carriers such as FedEx and UPS.
    Schumer thinks he has a chance of changing the law because legislation is likely to come up soon to make changes at the postal service, which is struggling with lower revenues and massive pension costs.
    The changes he's calling for will kill two birds with one stone, Schumer says.
    Shipping alcoholic beverages will boost revenue for the postal service. "At the same time, the effort will help New York's growing wine and beer industry," he said.
    Schumer said the postal service is willing to offer flat-rate shipping to wineries and breweries, rather than the variable rates they're paying with commercial carriers.
    As an example, he cited the cost of shipping a case of wine from Canandaigua by FedEx two-day service – $73 to New York City, and $209 to Colorado.
    Jim Trezise, of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, said the change would not only likely lower costs for producers looking to ship their products to customers – the flat rate would allow them to better plan for consistent shipping expenses.
    "The idea of a flat rate is absolutely wonderful," Trezise said.
    He cited statistics indicating that direct shipping to customers is the fastest-growing sector of the wine industry.
    Schumer said the change in the law, while nation-wide, would particularly benefit New York state.
    The state has 350 wineries and 56 breweries. Of those, 137 wineries and 15 breweries are in the Southern Tier.
    Trezise also said that wider exposure has already helped New York's wine industry.
    "Until 2005 when direct shipment was allowed, national wine magazines didn't cover New York wines because most of their readers couldn't get them, but the situation has now changed, with greater availability leading to greater press coverage," he said.
    The plan would also bring in an estimated $225 million in new revenue to the U.S. Postal Service at a time when it's sorely needed.
    "We all know that they've had struggles as of late," Schumer said.
    He considers that an important local issue, too. The postal service employs 12,090 people in New York, including 1,510 in the Southern Tier.
    The change, if approved, would take effect next year.
    It would only allow federally licensed producers to ship alcoholic beverages, not private individuals.
    It would also require a signature from someone over age 21 for delivery – something private carriers such as UPS and FedEx are already required to do for alcohol deliveries.

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