The front-page headline "Deficit Plan Would Boost Tax on Beer" {July 27} should have read: "Deficit Plan Aims a Tax Cannon at U.S. Wine Industry." The proposed increase in federal excise tax on beer is five-fold, and the proposed increase for wine is 25-fold. And this is not the only Bush bombshell aimed at the nation's vineyards (each winery supports multiple grape growers). The administration proposes to raise the federal occupational tax per winery from the current annual fee of $500-$1,000 to $19,000. California's Gallo (330 million gallons annual production) would pay the same tax as Virginia's Linden Vineyards (6,000 gallons).

As an independent viticulturist, I know this is the stuff of nightmares. More than 90 percent of our nation's wineries are as small as Linden. They are family businesses spread across 43 states, and they have struggled hard in the past few years to raise grapes in difficult climates and earn consumer respect for their local product. It takes 10 to 12 years before most farm wineries begin turning a profit and most are supported by family jobs outside the farm.

These administration measures will decrease U.S. competitiveness in the world market, strongly favor large producers over small (eliminating Mom and Pop operations) and make table wine less affordable compared with beer and whiskey. Next, the Office of Management and Budget will recommend to the president a cost-cutting measure used for years by fraternities: instead of wine, serve grape juice and vodka.

The Bush administration and other legislators have their hands on the trigger of a potent tax weapon aimed at our own grape and wine industry that might backfire and have a negative economic impact. LUCIE T. MORTON Broad Run, Va.