Shutdown Affecting Wine Imports

COLAs and new winery permits are put on hold

by Paul Franson
U.S. government shutdown wine
Ports such as the Port of Oakland (above) remain open during the government shutdown, but wine imports are being affected as the TTB is not approving labels at this time.
San Francisco, Calif.—Wine shipments that need label approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) are stuck in limbo amid the U.S. federal government shutdown, according to Chris Kammer, CEO of Access Supply Chain Service and Access Wine Service in San Francisco.

As a member of the customs brokers association board (CBFANC), Kammer, who provides import and export services for wine and winery products including production equipment, says he has received many inquiries about how the government shutdown will affect shipments.

In general, he says that an estimated 800,000 of the 2 million U.S. federal government employees have been furloughed due to the government shutdown. “You can’t even import wine in bond. That’s not possible without label approval,” Kammer said. “While crucial government services and benefits will continue without interruption, the trade and transportation industry can expect delays—some more drastic than others.”

Who is working?
Revenue-collecting and revenue-generating agencies are still at work. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, the ports and airports are open for business. Front-line U.S. customs and agriculture officers are considered essential personnel and aren't furloughed.

Import specialists, entry specialists and Fines, Penalties & Forfeiture (FP&F) seizure operations all are in full force. Hours of service at all ports are normal at this time, which includes overtime.

Who is not?

    International Trade Commission (ITC): The USITC website is closed.

    International Trade Administration (ITA): Website closed, No access to ADD/CVD information. Analysis Unit site down.

    U.S. Trade Representative (USTR): The USTR website will remain live, but without updates, for the duration of the government shutdown. Regular customs entries should continue to flow as normal, however it is possible that imports subject to Office of Global Analysis (i.e. FDA, USDA, F&W, etc.) review and clearance will experience delays during the government shutdown period. Backlogs should be expected once the shutdown ends.
Kammer said the areas that could be impacted are post-release functions, and there will likely be challenges due to the absence of mission support and technical personnel. He has been told unofficially that 17% of customs staff and 65% of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) staff have been furloughed.

The FDA has suspended much of its operations, though FDA District Operations Offices remain open with limited resources to continue to perform critical functions, which include entry review, field examinations, sample collections, compliance, exports, destructions, consumer complaints and emergency response.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has turned off its entire website in response to the government shutdown, leaving farmers, reporters and others with no way to access any of the agency’s information (such as the California Grape Crush Report) online.

COLA and winery approval standstill
Of most interest to the wine business, the TTB is not processing label approvals, and samples can’t be admitted without approval. “This has really messed up some people,” Kammer said. “In the past, the TTB would process emergency labels twice a week. That’s not happening now.”

New wineries also are not being approved, because the TTB must sign off on all applications.

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