Sen. Chuck Schumer visited an Albany Cider Mill Tuesday, celebrating the passing of the CIDER (Cider Investment and Development through Excise Tax Reduction) Act, a piece of legislation aimed at allowing cider producers to make more of their product for less money.
"The definition of hard cider was too narrow, and as a result, more often than not, the hard cider products the New York crafters were making, or wanted to make were being bumped into the wrong category, and were paying much too high a tax and thus many would-be producers said I'm not gonna make cider because of the cost," Schumer said.
The new law taxes hard cider the same as beer, $.23 per gallon. Previously, if the alcohol content went over seven percent, it was charged like wine, which is $1.07 per gallon.
Hard cider producers ran into even bigger problems if their beverage was too highly carbonated.
"As soon as carbonation reached a level of over 39%, it was charged a tax like champagne, $3.30 a gallon."
The CIDER Act is music to the ears of local producers like Melinda Vizcarra at Becker Farms in Gasport.
"Anytime we can pay less tax, it's wonderful," Vizcarra said.
Becker Farms started making hard cider two years ago. They made 4,000 gallons last year, and that number is only going to grow.
“We've been expanding our cider production every year just because it's so popular. We have eight different kinds of hard cider, and it's flying off the shelf,” Vizcarra said.
The law also raises the alcohol threshold from 7% to 8.5%, which Schumer says allows cider producers to make a better quality product without having to dilute it to get the lower tax rate.
"Because of its sugar content, the alcohol content of hard cider fluctuates, and you're never exactly sure what it's going to end up at," Schumer said.
Schumer says these changes will allow producers to be competitive domestically and abroad, and will make their product more cost-effective for consumers.
"You can get the stuff more cheaply. You can drink more of it at same price or drink the same amount at a lower price. It's up to you. I recommend drinking more," Schumer said.