After compromise, small farm wineries self-distribution advances, awaits only a House vote

By: - March 1, 2023 10:41 am

Kentucky’s small farm wineries would be allowed to self-distribute 12,000 gallons annually under a bill that awaits only a House vote. (Photo by Marie LaFauci/Getty Images)

FRANKFORT — After the Kentucky Senate last week approved allowing Kentucky small farm wineries to self-distribute their products, a House of Representatives committee followed suit Wednesday. 

The bill underwent some changes since it was filed after the wineries and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Kentucky reached a compromise on the amount of wine the farms could sell. 

The biggest change was made by a floor amendment from the sponsor, Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, which lowered the amount of wine that licensed small farm wineries would be allowed to self-distribute annually from 30,000 gallons to 12,000 gallons. The wholesalers objected to the larger amount during the Senate committee meeting and some senators also expressed concerns over the figure.

On Wednesday, the House Licensing, Occupations, & Administrative Regulations unanimously forwarded Senate Bill 28 to the House for further review.

Brian Young, treasurer of the wineries association, said while the groups started out on different sides of the equation, negotiations are at a good point. 

“It is a game changer for Kentucky and Kentucky farms and Kentucky small farm wineries without a doubt. It changes the landscape,” Young said. 

He added that he knew of some small farm wineries that Kentucky has lost because they did not have the opportunity to get their products on shelves. 

In a tweet following the vote in the Senate last week, Charles George, executive director of the wholesalers group, said: “Working with KY small farm wineries, we agreed on a compromise to allow self-distribution of limited quantities while largely retaining our safe, reliable three-tier system. We will continue to work with our producer and retailer tiers to promote sound alcohol policy. #Cheers”

The Senate vote was 32-1. Wilson, the Senate majority whip, said he wanted to file the legislation after learning about small farm wineries during an event in his district and that he was concerned “they did not have any distribution.” 

On Wednesday, Wilson said the bill is “a great economic incentive and tool” to grow the commonwealth. Small farm wineries are small businesses, he emphasized. 

“We had to give them the opportunity to thrive as a small business,” Wilson told the Kentucky Lantern. 

According to the Department of Agriculture’s website, Kentucky has more than 60 small farm wineries. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s online database says more than 90 small farm wineries licenses have been issued.

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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.