NEW ULM - U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar toured Schell's Brewery Monday a little bit later than she would have preferred.
"I would have liked to have been here for Oktoberfest, but I couldn't due to the (federal government) shutdown," Klobuchar said as Schell's owner Ted Marti led her entourage on a tour of the Schell's Museum and Taproom.
Klobuchar and Marti discussed the craft brewing industry and the bipartisan Small BREW (Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce) Act that would reduce the tax rate on small brewers.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, left, tours the August Schell Brewery Museum Monday with Schell’s owner Ted Marti.
The proposed law would reduce the small brewer tax rate on the first 60,000 barrels by 50 percent (from $7 to $3.50 per barrel) and create a new tax rate of $16, instead of the current $18 a barrel tax for production from 60,001 to 2 million barrels.
The bill would help 1,700 small breweries across the country continue to keep employees on the payroll and create jobs during challenging economic times, according to proponents.
Marti said the Small BREW Act would save Schell's - which employs 57 people - about $500,000 a year if it becomes law.
"It's important to us," Marti said. "It's a great time for small business, but when it calms down, you have to battle it out with the big guys. If not for (previous) tax breaks, we wouldn't be here and a lot of other small breweries wouldn't either."
Because delivering Schell's beers requires access to good highways, the need to update Highway 14 from New Ulm to Rochester was brought to Klobuchar's attention.
New Ulm Chamber of Commerce President Audra Shaneman said the Highway 14 four-lane expansion project is another local and area business and industry need.
"We lost our right to have (federal project funding) earmarks," Klobuchar responded. "It means more reliance on state funding."
Shaneman said manufacturing is thriving in New Ulm.
Mayor Bob Beussman said truckers have told him that semis are geared to operate more efficiently at 65 to 70 mph than 55, and accidents continue to occur at a higher rate on two-lane portions of U.S. Highway 14 east of New Ulm.
"I talked about the need for a Nicollet interchange and bypass a few weeks ago when Congressman Tim Walz was here. One guy asked me why I was concerned about Nicollet. Well, we're partnering with Nicollet, Courtland and New Ulm in the (four-lane expansion) project," Beussman said.
Shaneman and Beussman said Walz sounded very supportive of the project. Klobuchar said she would echo Walz' sentiments.
Marti gave Klobuchar a 750-ml bottle of Framboise Du Nord (Berliner Weisse) beer, a tart, dry, bright red beer with pink foam head.
Made Monday, the beer is set to be released in mid-November, allowing for three weeks of aging for optimal taste.
"Now I'll really be popular at Thanksgiving with my husband's family," Klobuchar said.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).