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How Regulations Helped to Kill the Blackcurrant Berry Market in America

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

How Regulations Helped to Kill the Blackcurrant Berry Market in America

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

It’s no secret that regulations are used as tools by rent-seeking firms in order to keep competitors off the market. But when US regulations restrict the production of items for long periods of time and for no apparent reason, it’s often hard to bring the same items back into particular communities.

FruitThis happened with the blackcurrant berry, which has impacted Skittles, the fruit-flavored sweets that are both produced and marketed by the Wrigley Company.

In the United States, the purple Skittle tastes like grape. But anywhere else, including the United Kingdom and Australia, the company uses blackcurrant to produce these pesky purple pieces of candy. Outside of the country, everyone knows what blackcurrant is. But in America, many haven’t even heard of the powerful fruit.

What many also don’t know is that blackcurrant berry is not widely known in America because of a regulatory black hole.

For many years, growing the sweet and tart berry in the United States was outlawed. Since the early 1990s, farmers were forced to drop the production, but it wasn’t because there wasn’t a demand. Instead, the policy was embraced after legislators learned that the berry bushes could act as a vector for white pine blister rust, which could destroy the wood. That was a problem for lumber producers, and the berry was outlawed.

While in the 1960s the federal government loosened restrictions, allowing states to set their own rules, a few have kept the ban in place. Nevertheless, most states now allow farmers to grow the berry. Regardless of the policy change, the decades of obscurity made Americans remain unaware of the very existence of blackcurrant berry. The fruit, which is widely popular in Europe, is seldom found anywhere in the United States.

One man’s journey to formally decriminalize the fruit in New York started in Germany, where he ran a restaurant in the Bavaria region. Coming back to New York, Greg Quinn lobbied local lawmakers, helping overturn the ban on growing the fruit. Ever since 2003, Quinn has been growing blackcurrants in Hudson Valley, and now counts with at least 10,000 bushes in his backyard.

Ever since the very first moment he learned about the berry, he knew he alone had to help reintroduce the flavor back to the American palate.

As his brand of juices and concentrates start to slowly hit the market, many cocktail bars and restaurants appear to like the products, but the flavor is so foreign to Americans that the product is often seen as a tough sell.

Until blackcurrant berries are popular in America again, one can only hope that this story will help others to think twice before supporting more restrictions in the future.

Your Favorite Distilled Beverage May Get a Little Cheaper

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Your Favorite Distilled Beverage May Get a Little Cheaper

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

A bipartisan bill was introduced recently that would lower the per gallon excise tax on distilled drinks, including whiskey and rum.

The Distillery Innovation and Excise Tax Reform Act, introduced by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), would relieve distilleries, especially newer ones, of some of the burdens they face when bringing products to market.

Currently, distilled drinks are taxed at $13.50 per proof gallon. Young’s bill seeks to lower the tax to $2.70 per proof gallon on the first 100,000 gallons produced by a distillery and $9 per proof thereafter.

Barrel

Rep. John Yarmuth (R-Ky.) has cosponsored the bill, which was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee on May 21. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) chairs the powerful tax-writing committee.

“All around southern Indiana, many new craft distilleries are popping up, creating jobs and adding to the tax base,” Young said in a release on Wednesday. “But there’s a lot of red tape involved in getting a new distillery off the ground, and this bill helps reduce that burden. In addition, we have many large, established distilleries in our region of the country, and this bill will help them, too.”

The bill has support from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA). “It is significant that the distillers of all sizes are united behind this important hospitality industry legislation,” Peter Cressy, CEO of DISCUS, said in a joint release with ACSA. “We thank the sponsors for recognizing the economic impact passage of this bill will have for our industry.”

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced a companion bill in the Senate. Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have signed on as cosponsors of the bill. Although the members represent states with a number of distilleries, the popularity of craft spirits has risen significantly and virtually every state now has distillery.

For the producers, the savings can mean expansion of their operations and more jobs for local communities.

“I started my distillery eight years ago to support Michigan jobs and prove that high quality spirits could be made right here in Michigan,” Rifino Valentine, founder of Valentine Distilling, said in a press release from Peters’ office. “While I’m proud to say we are expanding our facility, so many small distilleries are at a unique disadvantage as a result of the high federal excise tax.”

The bill may be common sense, but similar efforts to lower the excise tax on distilled spirits didn’t move out of committee in the previous Congress.