Wednesday, April 22, 2015

This petition against brewery law/distribution revisions is misleading

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 2:27 PM

“North Carolina beer jobs are under attack! Now, if you’ll just sign this petition, we promise to continue misleading you.”

That’s a fair summation of a website I was recently steered toward, the proactive-sounding NCBeerJobs.com. Look, the domain even contains things I’m for: North Carolina, beer and jobs! How could this possibly be a bad thing? It warns about two bills moving through the N.C. General Assembly that are “threatening the livelihood of 1000’s of North Carolina workers.” When I view this site on a mobile device, the petition is conveniently at the top, so I don’t even have to read through a bunch of troublesome words to blindly commit to a cause.

Seriously, go check this website out; I’ll wait. All I ask is that you finish this piece before you sign. I’ll try to entertain you with the truth as I expose this website for the deceitful, misleading, fear-mongering piece of skewed garbage that it is.

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Cui bono is a Latin phrase we still use. Directly translated, it means “to whose benefit.” So, who’s behind this seemingly well-intentioned website, who’s benefiting from the petition? Well, they want you to assume that North Carolina breweries benefit; after all, their website has NC, Beer, and Jobs in the domain name.

So what exactly are these folks fighting? “House Bills 625 and 278” doesn’t really provide much of a description. If you want it straight from the horse’s mouth, these bills “create an unfair, competitive advantage for a select few who want to do an end-around of the state’s regulatory system which promotes effective tax compliance, product safety and a wide variety of consumer choice.” You’re right, website; these bills are clearly evil and must be stopped. But curiosity gets the best of me, as it usually does, so I’m inclined to look these bills up before I sign the petition. It’s an odd practice, I know.

Let’s start with House Bill 625. It allows for Contract Brewing to occur in the state of North Carolina. Really quick version of what “contract brewing” is: Brewery A signs a contract with Brewery B for Brewery B to produce beer for Brewery A to sell. Right now, one North Carolina brewery can’t do that for another; this law would allow that to happen. Why would this practice occur, you ask? Well, let’s say Brewery A is expanding its production setup, but doesn’t want to run out of liquid stock while the work is being completed, so Brewery B steps in to help them keep up with demand. Clearly this concept of camaraderie in industry is evil, and is “threatening the livelihood of 1000’s of North Carolina workers.”

Alright, on to House Bill 278. It’s all about revising existing self-distribution laws in North Carolina, and if you blink you may miss the minuscule change being proposed. Right now, North Carolina breweries are legally forced to turn over distribution rights of their products over to distributors once they produce over 25,000 barrels of beer annually (or, as this website says, 8.26 million bottles). If that seems like a lot of production, just keep in mind that Anheuser-Busch makes literally Five Thousand Times that every year. I know, that’s a bit of a straw-man argument; it shouldn’t matter what macrobreweries make annually. This is about NC, Beer and Jobs. Sorry for getting off-subject.

This bill raises the limit, allowing N.C. breweries to self-distribute up to 100,000 barrels of beer annually, before they’re legally mandated to turn over the rights to their very own products to a third-party.

Seriously, name me another industry that is forced to turn over rights to market and sell what they make. I’ll be honest, self-distribution is inefficient. It’s much easier for one “independent beer distributor” to deliver four different brands from one truck than it is for four independent beer makers to independently make four deliveries. But here’s the rub: this inherent inefficiency means more jobs for more delivery drivers, cellermen and so forth. But hey, you should fight against House Bill 278, because this jobs-creating, salary-generating, industry-expanding inefficiency is “threatening the livelihood of 1000’s of North Carolina workers.”

Look, I’m all for NC, Beer and Jobs. The folks behind this website want you to believe they are as well. To help me understand the issues at hand a little better, I consulted a local brewery owner, who gave me the two options they face when they hit this legally mandated production ceiling: “One: Stop growing and remain at 24,999 bbls. This after spending millions of dollars in upgrading our system and facility. Or two: Turn over all our distribution to a distributor and lay off nine-plus employees.”

Wait, so you mean to tell me that supporting this petition actually hurts NC, Beer and Jobs? I thought these were the very things we were helping with this petition?

So there you have it. These two bills do nothing but allow cooperation between competitors (seriously, how can you be against cooperation?), and let breweries have more choice with when they want to sign the rights of their products over to a third party.

Don’t believe this NCBeerJobs baloney. If they have their way, they’ll hurt the very things they pretend to protect.

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