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Bonamici Calls for Speedy Approval of New Beer Labels Upon End of Government Shutdown

October 14, 2013
Press Release

Lag in Government Services a Risk After Shutdown Ends

Washington, D.C. – The government shutdown is causing big headaches for Oregon brewers because the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which approves new beer labels and recipes, is closed. Permits for popular seasonal beer varieties have been held up and there is a risk of a continued lag even after the government reopens. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) today sent a letter to TTB Administrator Manfreda asking that the bureau do everything it can to work through its growing backlog as quickly as possible when the shutdown ends.

“Seasonal varieties are crucial to small brewers in Oregon, but if they can’t get new labels approved they can’t move forward with production,” said Bonamici. “The closure of the TTB is just another example of how the government shutdown is hurting our local economy. I’ve called repeatedly for both sides to work together to reopen the government. After reopening, agencies like TTB will still have large backlogs. The average processing time before the shutdown was 12 days. That’s likely to increase significantly when the government reopens unless agencies work strategically to eliminate their backlogs. ”

TTB implements and enforces a broad range of statutory and compliance provisions to ensure that alcohol products are created, labeled, and marketed in accordance with Federal laws and regulations. Alcohol producers must apply for a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) for each unique product.

There are more than 135 breweries operating in Oregon, and they employ approximately 6,400 Oregonians.  In total, the industry accounts for a $2.83 billion piece of Oregon’s economy.

Bonamici’s letter to TTB Administrator Manfreda follows:

October 14, 2013


John Manfreda, Administrator
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1310 G Street Northwest, Box 12
Washington, D.C. 20005

Dear Administrator Manfreda:

Today marks day fourteen of a lapse in government appropriations that has resulted in federal agencies shutting their doors and furloughing employees.  We in Congress need to move forward with a funding proposal to solve this problem immediately, as we are flooded with stories from constituents hurt by the shutdown.  Among these are craft brewers, who rely on the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).  The TTB is charged with approving new labels and operations, especially for their seasonal varieties, and approving permits that allow new breweries to open.  When the government reopens, we urge you to help prevent a harmful lag in the sale of new products and the development of new businesses by processing new applications as efficiently as possible.

Oregon is home to a thriving beer brewing industry.  There are more than 135 breweries operating in Oregon, and they employ more than 6,400 Oregonians.  In total, the industry accounts for a $2.83 billion piece of Oregon’s economy, and has made us a destination for tourists.  Many of our small brewers produce creative seasonal varieties, and have to seek approval through TTB before they are able to sell these products in stores.  Any delay in approving new labels and operations can cause a disruption in the supply chain of these craft brewers, and often their operations are small enough that it can curtail production of another seasonal variety, causing a domino effect that will cause further harm.

In Hillsboro, in the First Congressional District that I am proud to represent, the Three Mugs Brewing Company is all set to open. They’re currently paying rent on their property, insurance, utilities, and several other business expenses.  But because they submitted their brewery application the day before the government shutdown, they are not allowed to start brewing beer.  Meanwhile, across the river in Portland, Oregon, the Gigantic Brewing Company is concerned that its recently-submitted label will take even longer than normal to be considered because of the backlog resulting from the shutdown.

We realize that the impacts of the federal government shutdown are broad and harming many industries.  The craft brewers in Oregon, and across the country, provide a specialty product with a short shelf life, and hence face amplified impact from even a short delay.  To make matters worse, large breweries that offer seasonal varieties that have already been approved by TTB can continue to operate normally and have a competitive advantage over our small, craft brewers.  For this reason, we urge you to proceed in approving applications with all possible haste upon a return to regular government operation.

The shutdown is a massively discouraging situation that is beyond your control.  We appreciate your hard work in mitigating its long term impacts, and thank you for your attention to this request.


Member of Congress