Although hard apple cider tends to get the most attention during the fall months when apples are in season, the sweet, alcoholic nectar is actually available all year — a godsend for apple farmers because it can be made from otherwise unsellable apples, and it provides a reliable, year-round source of income. And if Congress passes the CIDER Act — introduced to the house by New York Congressman Chris Collins and backed by Senator Chuck Schumer — local farmers might need to raise a glass of their own product to celebrate.
The CIDER Act — shorthand for the Cider, Investment & Development through Excise Tax Reduction Act — would lower taxes for hard cider producers. The current tax scheme for hard cider works like this: If the cider is 7 percent alcohol, it gets taxed like beer in the amount of 23 cents per gallon. But if the cider reaches or goes above 7 percent, then the product is taxed at the wine level, which is five times higher. This might not seem quite so unfair if ABV in cider wasn’t more or less a matter of luck: The alcohol level depends on the amount of sugar in the apples being distilled; the more sugary the fruit, the more alcoholic the liquor — and farmers don’t really have control over how sugary their apples will be.
The CIDER Act would keep the beer level taxation for all ciders up to 8.5 percent, and it would align the definition of hard cider with that of the European Union to create better competition between domestic cider makers and their counterparts across the pond. On a local level, the act would be a boost for the New York hard cider market, and lower taxes on the farmer mean lower prices for the consumer — so it should be a win-win situation for everyone involved.
New York is the second largest apple producer in the country, and farmers here harvest a total of 29.5 million bushels every year from more than 41,000 acres spread across 650 farms. More and more of these apple producers are looking to distill small, artisanal batches of hard cider, but they say that the cost of complying with the Internal Revenue Code definition can keep them from pursuing the endeavor. That might explain why of the more than 650 farms, less than 30 produce hard cider, despite growing demand
“I intend to push the CIDER Act,” Senator Schumer said. “It’s not very expensive, in fact, with the volume going up, I’ll bet the federal government will make more money than they do the other way.”