TTB shutdown means wine label slowdown

ttb_shutdownThe federal government has shut down “nonessential” services as of today. Surprisingly, that means that the federal agency that regulates the wine industry is also largely shut down. This is surprising because the agency collected $26 billion in revenues for the government–you’d think they would want to keep that flowing.

I spoke with a staffer at the TTB a few weeks ago while I was writing a story about wine label art. In the course of our conversation, he told me that the agency has experienced a surge in requests for label approvals. When they were formed ten years ago, they received 89,000 requests for label approvals whereas today they get 152,000 label requests. A 40% growth in wineries and a 60% rise in brewers have driven the surge. (Meanwhile, because of budget cuts, their headcount has been reduced from 520 to 471 over the same period.) I also spoke with some vintners who complained that the label approval process had slowed this year in the wake of the sequester. And now with the shutdown it will have ground to a halt.

Whenever TTB officials return to work they will have a ton of wine labels awaiting their review. The whole situation is enough to drive one to drink…

Before the shutdown occurred, the TTB did take a preliminary step to approving 11 new AVAs within the existing Paso Robles AVA.

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12 Responses to “TTB shutdown means wine label slowdown”

  1. Because it clearly does not take enough time to get Colas as it is… TTB shutdown means you can’t work with new importers opening new markers, can’t launch new products at all, can’t update artwork on existing product. This needs to end pronto.

  2. “This is surprising because the agency collected $26 billion in revenues for the government…”

    This is all mindless. They said all “non-essential” programs would be put on hold, yet they are affecting markets that bring in billions of dollars in profit. How does stifling progress help anyone?

  3. […] But the government shutdown has shuttered the TTB. […]

  4. […] the connections between US Government shutdown and wine? I had no idea there is one, until I read this post by Dr. Vino. TTB, the government agency which approves all the new labels, is part of the shutdown. […]

  5. Jacques – write your member of Congress and express your frustration!

  6. While it is true that TTB is not accepting new COLA submissions or new permit applications, they have not at all hampered their collection of revenue. As wineries, we still have to submit excise tax returns on time as well as Reports of Operations (“702’s”).

  7. The number of people at the TTB who handle label approvals for wine (beer and spirits?) is apparently a grand total of 3. How’s that for your tax dollar at work generating new income?

  8. Cameron winery just wrote a fantastic rant about this. not only is that bad for business now, but it will also create a huge backlog when (if) our government ever reopens

  9. Nice piece Tyler. I had actually posted a blog post on the topic of COLAs, processing times, etc. the night before the shutdown. See
    Depending on how long this lasts, there may be some real problems when TTB comes back online. I think the queue was already backed up to applications submitted around September 11th, 2013. Add a few weeks of shutdown time to that and we’ll start to see products that are going to miss their launch dates.
    TTB is going to have to do something about the processing times. I think they’ll move to a “deemed approved” model and shift to marketplace enforcement instead of applying such scrutiny at the pre-approval process. A lot of people will be happy with this, but the big suppliers might fight it because they view an approved COLA as an insurance policy. They don’t want to put their products out their on the shelf and then have them yanked because of a marketplace enforcement issue. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

  10. […] […]

  11. […] wine imports to be released from Customs ports. See Shutdown Affecting Wine Imports; see also TTB Shutdown Means Wine Label Slowdown. Without a valid COLA, Customs will not release TTB-regulated beverage products from its […]

  12. As a wine service company, we are getting the US Customs entries and FDA prior notices done with very few problems ,these government agencies are at their posts and facilitating trade , the big issue is the TTB , I foresee a big backlog of applications when the government eventuly reopens


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