Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Congressional Bourbon Caucus Formed.

Today, within minutes of each other, three press releases arrived in my in-box announcing the formation by Congressmen John Yarmuth and Brett Guthrie of the official and bi-partisan Congressional Bourbon Caucus (CBC).

They were a joint press release from Yarmuth and Guthrie announcing it, and releases from the Kentucky Distillers Association (KDA) and Beam Global Spirits and Wine saying how great it is.

The following, from the joint release by the two Representatives, explains the purpose of the caucus.

"This caucus offers a solid base of bipartisan support for one of Kentucky’s most important industries and largest employers," said Congressman Yarmuth. "Congressman Guthrie and I both agreed it was important to create a working group that would advocate for this critical part of the Commonwealth’s economy."

"I am proud to co‐chair this caucus with Congressman Yarmuth, as we strive to promote one of Kentucky’s signature industries," Congressman Guthrie said. "The bourbon industry is a vital part of the Commonwealth’s heritage that provides thousands of jobs, and this bipartisan caucus will ensure that the industry’s impact is valued."

Seventeen Members of Congress from across the nation have signed on as original members of the caucus, and more are expected to join in the weeks ahead.

Over 95 percent of the bourbon produced in the world is distilled and aged in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, where the alcoholic beverage industry employs over 43,000 Kentuckians. Over $3 billion of the gross state product in Kentucky is generated by distilled spirits and over 500,000 visitors annually tour the Commonwealth’s Bourbon Trail.

Democrat Yarmuth's 3rd District is Louisville. Republican Guthrie's 2nd District covers a larger but less populated area that includes Bardstown, Owensboro, and about half of the state's distilleries.

The KDA release tells us that three of Kentucky's four other US Representatives have signed on as well. They are Ben Chandler (D-KY 6th), Geoff Davis (R-KY 4th) and Ed Whitfield (R-KY 1st). It describes the Bourbon Caucus as a "key advocacy group to promote and protect bourbon" and adds another statistic: $100 million in taxes paid.

None of the press releases mention this, but the CBC's sole holdout is Republican Hal Rogers, who represents the 5th, southeastern Kentucky. There are no distilleries in the 5th, most of the counties there are dry, and the region has a long history of going its own way versus the rest of the Commonwealth.

The Beam release contained much of the same content as the other two, but Fred Noe is quoted.

"This is a great step for the Bourbon industry and 'America’s Native Spirit,'" said Frederick 'Fred' Booker Noe III, seventh-generation Jim Beam family distiller. "The Congressional Bourbon Caucus recognizes Bourbon’s unique place in American history and its positive impact on the economy."

Beam's main contribution is that term 'America's Native Spirit,' which they like a lot and I grumbled about a little here.

But no grumbling is allowed today, because this is a great day for America. While the industry commends the Congressmen, I commend the industry leaders who put this together. Bourbon is good for America and good for Kentucky. Any acknowledgment of that is a good thing.

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