Once again, I’m going to ask my readers to please take a moment to find out what is going on with New Jersey’s small wineries because they are in danger. If the state legislature can’t do what’s right and bring a bill to a vote and pass it by June 30, 2011, the fate of New Jersey’s wineries and perhaps other states' small wineries will be left to a federal judge.
You can read the reasons about why New Jersey’s small wineries are in jeopardy in my post from earlier this year. I’d like to post here the letter I have written to my state senator and assemblymen. I'm posting this letter online because I have not received a response to any of the emails I have sent during the past year. When I phoned their offices today, the response I was given was very disappointing. So here it is, my open letter to the representatives of District 5 in New Jersey.
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Dear Senator Norcross, Assemblyman Fuentes and Assemblyman Gilbert,
I am one of your constituents, and a registered Democrat. I have e-mailed your offices on several occasions asking you to please vote in favor of our state wineries when the different wine shipping bills have been introduced, but never completely voted on, in the New Jersey State Legislature.
I have been told there is a June 30, 2011 deadline in bringing the current proposed legislation S-2782/A-3897 up for a vote before you recess until the fall. As a voter in your district, I am asking you to make sure that this legislation gets to vote before the recess and that each of you vote in favor of the legislation. Make sure that our wineries’ tasting rooms are not shut down and that our wineries gain the ability ship to residences in the state and out of state.
New Jersey wineries are an asset to our state. If the state legislature does not take the opportunity to vote on these bills, the fate of our wineries could be left up to a federal judge. You are in a much better position to know what is right for our state than a federal judge. As representatives of New Jersey residents, you are expected to vote for what is best for the state and its people. Keeping our wineries thriving and giving them the ability to ship their wines both in and out of state should be one of your priorities.
Over the past decade our wineries and the wine created by the winemakers have become increasingly impressive. As our state’s wines win more well-deserved medals, visits to our wineries will increase. This will increase tourism revenue. The New Jersey State Wine Growers Association has already created several wine trails for tourists to follow. As a wine lover, I go to other states to follow wine trails on weekend trips. If our wineries are allowed to thrive, people from other states will choose New Jersey for their weekend wine trail trips. The various wine festivals where our state wineries show off their wines also bring in tourism revenue.
Our wineries employ many people. If the wineries are forced to close down their tasting rooms and only sell through wine distributors, many of them will not be able to stay in business. If the wineries continue to thrive, those jobs will be secure and more jobs will be created.
Vineyards are, in essence, farms. Our wineries keep valuable sustainably farmed land open, benefiting New Jersey’s ecosystems. I don’t know anyone who believes New Jersey needs to sell off more of its farmland and turn it into housing developments. Enough of that has been done already. We need to preserve our open spaces, and keeping the wineries in business can do that. If the state shows support of the New Jersey wine industry, there is a good chance that other winemakers will buy farmland that is for sale in order to create vineyards, further preserving open land.
I’ve read the arguments from the state’s liquor lobby that say that they are concerned about the ease of those underage gaining access to wine through the mail if the shipping bill gets passed. I can’t help but laugh at that argument. It’s no secret that many underage kids are already drinking alcohol in our state, and they are not getting it from the mail. They are obtaining it from liquor stores. If the liquor lobby is that concerned about underage kids getting alcohol, they should close the doors of the liquor stores already in business.
But that would affect their profits, and in the end the arguments against a fair shipping bill boil down to that — profit. Not what’s right. Not what’s fair. Not what’s done safely and legally in 38 other states in our country. Simply money. It is increasingly clear to the voters who have been following the saga of wine shipping in the state of New Jersey for years that politicians are also concerned about the profitability of their votes in this issue.
I’m not sure if you receive money from the liquor lobby or anyone associated with liquor lobby, but you need to know that your constituents demand you vote for what’s right for the state, not what’s right for your election funding.
I know that the wineries’ tasting rooms and their ability to ship are not the only issues these bills address. They also address wineries from other states being able to have some of the same privileges that New Jersey wineries have in getting consumers direct access to their wines. I’m all for that. They also allow for small wineries in other states to ship directly to New Jersey residencies. I’m all for that, too. As I mentioned, I frequently visit small wineries in other states. I would love to be able to have wines that I discover at them shipped to my home.
I have sent various emails about this issue to your offices, but I have never gotten a response. I phoned your Audubon office today. I was told that none of you have released a position on this issue yet. If it is brought to a vote, I was told that most likely your positions would not be released until after the vote has been cast.
I would really like to know your positions on this issue. I voted for you. You represent me.
Barrington, New Jersey