Rep. Jason Smith visited a county high school and area business last week.
At Plato High School, Smith visited a civics class and took questions from students. The conversation covered topics from how to get involved in public service to Smith’s experience as one of the youngest members of the House of Representatives.
“When I talk to students, I want them to see that they can make a difference in their communities now,” Smith said. “They don’t have to wait until they are older to have a positive impact.”
Smith connects with students during “Congress in the Classroom” chats both in person and via video chat.
“Sometimes students are surprised to learn that changes made in Washington can affect students right here,” he said. “These conversations help make Congress accessible; and who knows, maybe one of these students will run for office someday.”
Smith later visited Piney River Brewing Company in Bucyrus. It was Smith’s first visit to a craft brewery in his district, but he said he was familiar with Piney River’s products.
Brewery co-founders and owners Brian and Joleen Durham guided Smith through a tour of the BARn, the 75-year old barn on Durham’s 80-acre Texas County farm where the beer has been brewed since 2011.
From the brew house through the canning line, to the cooler storing cans and kegs of Piney River beer, the Durhams explained brewing daily operations of the brewery from brewing to packaging to shipping to distributors. Smith and his aides observed the concrete base of the 12,000 square-foot building under construction for a new brew house, packaging line and cold storage. The new production facility is slated for completion this spring.
In 2014, Piney River Brewing produced almost 1,800 barrels of beer, and hit maximum capacity for their current facility. The new facility will allow the brewery to produce up to 9,000 barrels of beer at maximum capacity.
Piney River employs two brewers and five employees who assist with brewing, packaging and tap room operations. An additional full-time brewer will begin working in May.
“Right now, everything we make we are reinvesting back into the brewery,” Brian Durham told Smith.
The Durhams asked Smith to consider co-sponsoring the Small Brewer Workforce Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act (HR 232), a recalibration of the beer excise tax. Smith is in favor of reducing excise taxes for small brewers.
“The number of craft breweries is growing across Missouri and across the nation,” Brian Durham said. “The time has come help these small breweries grow by reducing the excise taxes on what they produce.”