Wine makers targeted under proposed bill

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ROCHEPORT - A bill targeting the wine industry both in Missouri and across the country was heard in the House Standing Committee on Agriculture Policy Tuesday afternoon.

House Bill 826 would require all domestic wines sold in Missouri to be certified as harvested and produced by verified U.S. citizens. Rep. Joe Don McGaugh (R-Carrollton), who sponsors the bill, said he is reacting to a law passed in California known as Proposition 2. 

Proposition 2 took effect at the beginning of the year and mandates that all fresh eggs sold in California must come from hens housed in larger cages. 

"We export about 18 percent of our eggs to California," McGaugh said. "I know California produces a lot of wine and they bring a lot of wine to Missouri so I'm going after an industry that would affect California, trying to send a message to California, 'stay out of our laws and we'll stay out of yours.'"

McGaugh said his bill would hurt the California wine industry more than the Missouri industry. 

"Right now in California, they know there are 280,000 undocumented workers that work in the wine industry and other vegetable type industries," he said. "If the court of appeals in California want to say that this is about the treatment of animals then House Bill 826 is about the humane treatment of people and the workers that work in the wine industry."

The chairman of Missouri Grape and Wine Alliance, Cory Bomgaars, said the bill would impact the Missouri wine industry. Under the current wording of the bill, it would eliminate the employment of workers with green cards who would otherwise be legal to work.

"If this bill were to pass, it would impact how we harvest the grapes, because some of us do use migrant labor in our harvesting, it also could effect just how our market is set, because by removing huge volume of the wine off the shelves would be a change in the dynamic in how we do our business," he said.

While wine makers are directly affected by the bill, wine drinkers across the state could also see a change if the bill becomes a law.

"Grocery stores would have to pull those products off the shelf, so it would completely eliminate a huge portion of the products that are available to a consumer," Bomgaars said.