Farmers, beer brewers and lawmakers are calling upon the government to drop a proposal that they say is unnecessary, could lead to waste and could raise the overall cost of beer — or milk — for consumers.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is visiting Rohrbach Brewing Co., a craft brewery in Rochester, N.Y., the latest of several brewery visits, Monday and will be asking the Food and Drug Administration to drop a provision in its preventative standards for the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Here’s the issue: Brewers have given or sold for a nominal fee their spent grain to farmers who use it as animal feed. The new rule would classify brewers doing this as animal feed manufacturers and would thus require them to ship the material dry, instead of wet as it generally is after the beer-making process.
“It’s one of those rules that make people wonder what the heck is going on down there,” Schumer said, according to the Democrat and Chronicle. “Sometimes government goes overboard. They want to regulate it like it’s commercial feed, but there’s no evidence of it harming people or animals.”
Instead of shipping the grain byproducts of brewing wet to farmers who use it as animal feed, the FDA’s proposal wants it to meet “proper drying and storing procedures to prevent mold growth and mycotoxin production.”
Brewers say it wouldn’t be worth it for them to meet these standards and continue providing the feed product to farmers.
“That would be cost prohibitive,” Scott Mennen, vice president of brewery operations at Widmer Brothers brewery in North Portland, Ore., told the Oregonian. “Most brewers would have to put this material in a landfill.”
Brewmaster James Emmerson with Full Sail Brewing Co. told the Oregonian the cost of beer would go up if breweries decided to comply with the rule given the millions of dollars it would cost to install equipment and process the feed it properly.
Van Havig with Gigantic Brewing Co. in Portland told the newspaper that he sees this as the FDA “regulating a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Daniel McChesney, director of surveillance and compliance for the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, told the Oregonian that the administration has not heard of any health problems associated with grain products shipped in the current method from brewers or distillers, but “we’re trying to get to a preventative mode.”
“Brewers’ grains have been used as cattle feed for centuries, and the practice is generally considered safe,” the Brewers Association , which represents craft brewers, said in a statement. “We ask the FDA to conduct a risk assessment of the use of spent brewers’ grain by farmers prior to imposing expensive new regulations and controls.”
Watch WTIC-TV’s report about the proposed rule and the consequences it could have on breweries and the animal farming industry in Connecticut as well:
Farmers who benefit from the cheap grain product don’t want the rule enacted either.
“It’s a premium product,” Jerome Rosa, owner of Jerosa Dairy, told the Oregonian. “I pay virtually nothing. But it’s like putting honey on your cereal. It makes the cows want to eat more and we notice it in their production.”
If the rule is enacted as is and brewers choose that it’s not worth the effort to meet the new packaging standards, they would still have to comply with requirements for how to dispose of it in a landfill — and pay for it.
Schumer isn’t the only lawmaker balking at the rule on behalf of his constituents. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are just a few asking that it be dropped as well.
The proposed rule is currently in a comment period, after which time comments will be considered and the proposal could be revised.
Featured image via Shutterstock.