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Locals to Lobby Albany at Beer & Wine Summit

Members of the Long Island Farm Bureau and Long Island Wine Council were invited to attend Gov. Andrew Cuomo's beer and wine summit in Albany on Wednesday.

The day after New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli visited Long Island to tout the impact of agriculture on the state's economy, a handful of leaders from the local ag industry is heading up to Albany for a beer and wine summit, a meeting to see how elected officials can promote the burgeoning industry.

The meeting comes on the heels of recent legislation that eased regulations for craft brewers, and a similar summit held in August for members of the yogurt industry, which reportedly led to fewer regulations that have allowed small dairy farms to expand as demand for Greek-style yogurt has exploded.

In seeking continued growth for the Long Island wine and beer industry, Long Island Farm Bureau Executive Director Joe Gergela said on Tuesday that he'll be seeking ways to increase marketing of local wines in a market that the industry can stand to saturate further: New York City.

"It's pretty pathetic in my mind," said Gergela, referring what he said is a low number of establishments on Long Island and in New York that serve the local juice. "We need to do better on marketing our products. We do good in the tasting rooms. But the medium and bigger operations need to sell more wine."

Gergela added that in the nation's largest market less than 100 miles to the west, competition to get into those restaurants remain an enormous challenge as well. But by spending more marketing dollars to promote New York State wines, local growers and economies alike could reap the benefits, particularly as the cost of fuel needed to keep irrigation systems and diesel needed for transportation continues to climb. And land values prove to be enormous capital investments alone for those looking to get into the industry.

"For us, the biggest challenge – whether it's a vineyard or traditional farm – is the cost of production," Gergela said. 

Ron Goehler, president of the Long Island Wine Council, echoed Gergela's sentiments.

"For us the marketing aspect is huge. There are so many products grown and produced here in New York," he said. "It's an industry that can grow rapidly. And this is about creating jobs that are vital to sustaining what's out here."

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