Merkley cuts red tape for Oregon winegrowers

The Food and Drug Administration will exempt winegrowers from unnecessary accounting, freeing Oregon wineries from burdensome regulation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today announced that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is implementing the direction he successfully included in the 2019 spending bill, instructing the agency to exempt wine grapes from regulation under the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule.

The Produce Safety Rule establishes minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of raw fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. However, through the process of making wine, any potentially dangerous microorganisms or pathogens on grapes are removed. Including winegrowers in this rule imposes unnecessary and burdensome accounting, since the end product is not an unprocessed raw fruit or vegetable.

“This is good news for winegrowers and family wineries in Oregon and across the country,” Merkley said. “The old rules were too broad, failing to consider the difference between grape-growing for wine production and raw consumption. Oregon’s wine industry is one of the best in the world, and we need to make sure we’re supporting it with common-sense, effective regulation—not pointless burdens. I’ll continue to be a strong federal partner in making sure that we are supporting winegrowers and all producers with regulations that make sense for their products. Our world-class winegrowers should be free to focus their attention on red grapes, not red tape.”

Merkley used his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to include language in the 2019 spending bill to provide wine grape growers relief, successfully including direction to the FDA to exempt winegrowers from the Produce Safety Rule:“None of the funds made available by this or any other Act may be used to enforce the [Produce Safety Rule] with respect to the regulation of the production, distribution, sale, or receipt of grape varietals that are grown, harvested and used solely for wine and receive commercial processing that adequately reduces the presence of microorganisms of public health significance” (Pub. L. 116-6, section 758).

“Senator Merkley is once again standing with Oregon’s family wineries and grape growers to minimize the effect of unnecessary regulation,” said Jana McKamey of the Oregon Winegrower’s Association. “Thanks to his efforts, Oregon winegrowers and winemakers will no longer need to comply with burdensome reporting and recordkeeping requirements of FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule.”