Even if you don’t drink a drop of wine this year, you’ll be paying for a bunch of booze. Throughout the course of 2016, the federal government awarded your tax dollars — a whopping 9.2 million of them — to select American wineries, distilleries and hard cider producers.
The money comes from a little known grants program known as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Value Added Producer (VAPG), reports CNS News. The program awarded $7,417,459 to wineries, $1,250,000 to hard liquor producers, and $545,844 to hard cider makers. Breweries aren’t getting any money directly, but two hop farms are getting a combined $408,000. Everything is transparent thanks to a public list of recipients, including where each recipient is located, how much money each recipient gets and what the recipient plans to do with the money.
Now, you might be thinking, “That’s a lot of money to spend on booze and still be this sober!” And you’re not wrong. A closer look at the list of recipients, and how they are planning on spending your tax dollars, reveals some interesting details. Arizona winery Caduceus Cellars was awarded a cool quarter of a million dollars “to help increase the customer base and market share for bottled wines.” A Florida winery called Chautauqua Vineyards and Winery also got $250,000, “to help expand the market for bottled Muscadine grape wines and bulk grape juice and wine products.” Another winery from Pennsylvania, Grovedale Winery and Vineyard, was also granted $250,000, “to enhance marketing by developing a more visually appealing display with new banners, tasting cards and table displays.” Indeed.
It’s not all money for marketing. If you are “a beginning farmer,” or a “socially-disadvantaged farmer,” or a farmer or rancher cooperative, you may be in luck. “You may receive priority,” the USDA writes on its website. The VAPG program is in place to help “agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-based, value-added products,” whatever that means.
But some of the grantees seem to be doing more interesting things with their newfound riches, with corn as a recurring theme, like the Badlands Distiller, which is spending its $250,000 “to allow a small family farm to increase its profitability by producing a value-added product from corn” — specifically, distilled spirits. You can’t do that with money from small-town donations and a lemonade stand, and big companies sure don’t have a habit of investing in family farms. And Barkley’s Mill on Southern Cross Farm will be spending its $56,000 “to evaluate the potential for a craft distillery to make whiskey from heirloom corn.”
Given that you’ve already spent so much on alcohol, it seems like a good time to get a drink.