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Wendy Oakes-Wilson and Darrell Oakes at a key intersection in their u-pick orchard. Photo by Ashley Hirtzel
Wendy Oakes-Wilson and Darrell Oakes at a key intersection in their u-pick orchard. Photo by Ashley Hirtzel

Cider-makers hope for help from Washington

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During the heart of apple picking season lawmakers in the House of Representatives are considering a bill that would make hard cider-makers' business lives easier, and their cider better.

The CIDER Act would simplify the federal tax regulations for hard cider - and allow cider-makers to keep more natural apple flavor in their products.

LynOaken Farms is hoping for both measures to pass. LynOaken is a big operation in western New York, with a farm market and winery, an event center under construction, and orchards full of heritage apples as well as new varieties.

Wendy Oakes-Wilson gave The Innovation Trail's Ashley Hirtzel a wagon ride around the farm's "u-pick" section, where a familiar color scheme manages traffic.

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Reported by

Ashley Hirtzel
Reporter, The Innovation Trail

Oakes explains, “You can see our color coordination here. So, the green ones mean go ahead and pick, if it’s yellow you’re on your own, red, I wouldn’t do it, you won’t be happy with it,”

LynOaken Farms General Manager, Darrell Oakes counts roughly 300 varieties of apples in the self-harvest section.

“I think the oldest one here is an apple called Decio, it’s from A.D. 450 at the tail end of the Roman Empire in Italy. We also have one called White Winter Pearmain and that’s from the 1200’s in England. Two rows over is an apple called Esopus Spitzenburg, and that is known in the literature as Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple.”

Oakes says growing so many different apples helps LynOaken identify potential varieties for crushing into hard cider.

“If you think back into the 1800’s the majority of the apples were utilized on the homestead were utilized to make hard cider. Quite often trees were planted as seedlings and so whatever came up was what you got, and often times you got fairly astringent, small apples like this one here called Yates, but they made great hard cider, because they had some tannic structure and they were easy to ferment.”

Currently, lawmakers are considering a bill that would update regulations for hard cider businesses across the country. Republican Congressman Chris Collins is sponsoring the legislation called the Cider Industry Deserves Equal Regulation Act or the CIDER Act. He says proposed changes to the tax code would result in additional demand for local produce and relief for craft operators.

“Apples ferment at different alcohol contents in doing an analysis it seems that 8.5% alcohol content is a more reasonable reflection of hard cider. So, the bill would increase the limit from 7% to 8.5% allowing the hard cider to be taxed more in line with beer the other issue is carbonation in some cases adding carbonation improves the taste, but today if you do that it’s taxed and treated as champagne.”

The proposal would also allow cider makers to use pears in cider production, which is currently prohibited. Back at LynOaken Farms, Darrell Oakes says the CIDER Act would make the playing field fairer for its producers.

“One of the things that were looking for in terms of the changes in cider legislation is to kind of bring back the ability for producers to create ciders in various forms and ways from some of these older apples, but also from the more modern varieties.”

Chris Collins expects lawmakers to approve the CIDER Act by the end of this legislative session. In the meantime LynOaken Farms is paying close attention to feedback from customers about which apples are likely candidates for turning into delicious hard cider.

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