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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Latest NY 'summit' on tap"

ALBANY, Oct. 22 -- So what’s on tap for the remainder of October in New York State government? How about the state’s first-ever “Beer and Wine Summit” soon to be convened by Governor Andrew Cuomo. It will mark the latest chapter in New York government taking a more active, collaborative, nuts-and-bolts partnership role in our pursuit to improve the business climate in New York to foster economic growth and create jobs.

Government as the gateway to a better business climate. Imagine that.

But that’s what we’re trying to achieve. Modeled after a successful “Yogurt Summit” in August, where the focus was on the Empire State’s booming Greek-style yogurt industry, I’ve seen the upcoming summit on beer and wine fittingly referred to as a “business-oriented Oktoberfest.” We’re certainly turning to the expertise and input from New York’s brewers and winemakers to serve up a response to this overriding question: How can New York government help?

The Yogurt Summit focused on how New York government can take every step to encourage and grow the yogurt industry, and do it in ways that will work simultaneously to strengthen our dairy industry and other manufacturers. And the summit on yogurt did produce some immediate results, especially in the arena of regulatory reform. But it also delivered a clear message that we’re not about to let this economic opportunity pass us by, a message whose value cannot and should not be

So we’ll soon convene Summit No. 2, and it’s one that could produce particular benefits throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions.

The wine industry, as we know, is one of the greatest of all New York success stories, one, in large part, led by the Finger Lakes vineyards and wineries that have served as the hub of this national and international emergence over the past two decades (which you can read all about on or In fact, one of the world's largest travel websites, TripAdvisor, just named the Finger Lakes one of the nation’s top wine destinations (read more about it at

But beer’s been on the table, too. Overall, beer in New York is a $5.3-billion industry employing approximately 60,000 citizens – and generating roughly $446 million in federal, state and local revenues. Like Greek-style yogurt, New York's craft brewing industry is burgeoning. The number of craft brewers has doubled over the past 10 years. It now consists of more than 90 breweries, accounts for thousands of jobs and generates more than $200 million of annual economic activity in nearly every region of the state, including right here at home (see the Finger Lakes Beer Trail at The Finger Lakes Beer Trail currently showcases craft brewers at 42 locations, including 22 breweries and 16 brew pubs (and nearly a dozen more in the works).

Some of you might recall a new state law enacted earlier this year that implemented regulatory reforms and tax incentives to encourage the expansion of our craft beer industry. This year’s law focuses on how to keep this single industry growing and to do it in ways that enhance and strengthen the foundations of agriculture and tourism at the same time. For example, one of the law’s key provisions requires that in order to receive the new Farm Brewery benefits, the beer must be made primarily from local, New York grown farm products in order to achieve the desired boost to agriculture as a whole.

In other words, as with yogurt, the underlying idea is to figure out how best to utilize the growth of one specific industry in a way that helps keep New York’s number one industry, agriculture, strong through the creativity, diversity and innovation that’s going to be required for long-term success. [As a brief side note, I’ve also had some discussions locally concerning the development of a hard cider industry as well as distilleries, both of which show the potential for growth and success, and would offer yet another market for many farmers. In the state of Washington, for example, the number of hard cider producers has quintupled over the past few years.]

The Yogurt Summit immediately produced important regulatory reforms. I fully anticipate that while the Beer and Wine Summit obviously can’t settle all of the challenges facing these highly competitive industries – which, remember, continue to operate under Prohibition-era laws and layers of federal, state and local regulation -- I do believe this upcoming meeting of the minds will open new pathways to success for large-scale beer manufacturers and wineries, as well as for smaller vineyards and microbreweries. Or, as the governor said in announcing it, “It’s more than the meeting itself. What these meetings are all about is identifying a business product line where, we believe if we get involved, we can actually make a difference. The summit then causes -- forces -- a lot of discussion,
a lot of meetings, where the business leaders from that particular area sit down with the agencies responsible.”

Here’s to raising a glass to the ongoing success of that idea.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869