AgBioResearch Could Help Boost Michigan’s Economic Spirits

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Governor Jennifer Granholm signs a new law allowing small distilleries to market and sell their products on-site. (view larger image)

A new law allowing small distilleries to market and sell their products on-site is expected to bolster the state’s sagging economy by providing new markets for Michigan-grown agricultural crops and creating new jobs, according to an MAES researcher who played a key role in providing background research on the legislation.

The law is based on 11 years of by research by Kris Berglund, MAES scientist and university distinguished professor of forestry and chemical engineering. Microdistilleries are expected to add more than $400 million to Michigan’s economy and create about 1,400 new jobs, according to legislators who supported the law.

“Before this law was passed, distillers could not sell their products by the bottle or by the glass on premises,” Berglund said. “Michigan now has the most producer-friendly law in the country. We’re expecting a number of entrepreneurs to start distilling businesses here.”

Berglund has been studying distilling processes and conducting how-to workshops since 1997, envisioning a bright future for microdistilleries that were similar to beer microbreweries. Much of Berglund’s recent research has been conducted at the MSU Biorefinery Training Facility at the Michigan Brewing Company in Webberville. Berglund provided extensive background information to Byrum as she was crafting the bill and testified before both the House and Senate as they considered the legislation. Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed the bill into law in July.

Public Act 218 creates a new license class that allows distilleries that manufacture less than 60,000 gallons a year to sell their goods on-site. The license costs $100 annually.

“The new law gives distillers more options,” Berglund said. “In the past, distillers could only sell their products through the liquor distribution system. Now they can set up on-site retail operations, much as breweries or wineries do.

“Distilleries are another piece of growing Michigan’s bioeconomy,” Berglund continued. “We’re taking renewable resources and turning them into a high-value, high-quality product.”

For more information on MSU‘s work to grow the bioeconomy, visit the MSU Office of Biobased Technologies Web site

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