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NY to hold beer, wine ‘summit’ to boost industries

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ALBANY, N.Y. — First yogurt, now beer and wine.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday called for a "summit" to boost the beer and wine industries in New York just months after he began a similar event to try to make the state the nation's largest producer of Greek-style yogurt.

"The yogurt summit worked very, very well," Cuomo said. He said the beer and wine summit in late October will be patterned after it.

The beer and wine effort will involve farmers and manufacturers as well as relevant state regulators. Cuomo said private sessions among participants are expected to yield important discussions and agreements before the public summit.

The wine and beer industry, which includes growers of grapes and hops, has gained more attention from the state in recent months as Cuomo looks to it to help combat a 9 percent unemployment rate.

In June, the Legislature and Cuomo restored a tax break for small but growing craft beer brewers in New York, providing an advantage over competitors from outside the state. The package of laws also allows farmers to sell craft beer at farmers markets.

The craft beer industry in New York has doubled over the last 10 years and employs 3,000 jobs in the highly automated process, according to the industry.

Beginning Monday, the Last Store on Main Street coalition is launching its second "Fall in Love with New York Wines" promotional campaign with private funds to push New York's homegrown wines. The effort includes posters and tastings in liquor stores and often for the first time links wine growers with liquor store operators in joint promotions.

"With all the wine that New Yorkers drink, if the amount of New York wine in that total goes up by just 10 percent, it will be jolt of energy that will create jobs and opportunities all over the state," said Jeff Saunders, head of the Retailers Alliance, an association of major wine stores around the state.

He said new wineries will open and others will grow, along with tourism.

"The governor is delivering in a way that the industry has wanted for a very long time," he said Thursday.

The National Association of American Wineries has put New York at No. 2 in production nationwide among the states, still at a fraction of California's output. In New York, the wine industry employs about 5,000 on a $20 million payroll, although the industry says the wages earned from growing to retail is over $1 billion a year.

Since the "yogurt summit" this summer, the state is moving to reduce some environmental protection regulations in order to help dairy farmers increase their herds to address a shortage of milk for New York yogurt producers.