Schumer: FDA will revise 'spent grain rule' for farmers and brewers

By Anna Norris

Schumer: FDA will revise 'spent grain rule' for farmers and brewers

April 24, 2014 Updated Apr 24, 2014 at 1:36 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Senator Charles Schumer announced Thursday that the Food and Drug Administration would reverse a proposed rule that would be harmful to the upstate New York craft brew industry and its farmers.

The FDA was attempting to regulate "spent grain,” a natural byproduct of the brewing process, in a way that could prevent brewers from selling or donating it directly to farmers.

Schumer received commitment to revise the rule from FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg over a phone call.

Farmers use the grain to feed animals and it's something they have been doing for centuries.

The FDA proposed this new rule as part of its continued implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. If enacted, it could have forced brewers to trash the grains.

Commissioner Hamburg stated in her call with Schumer that the FDA now realized the rule had very negative, unintended consequences for both brewers and farmers and the FDA is committed to revising the rule in a way that does not prevent the selling or donating of spent grain.

Schumer visited multiple breweries around the state to gain support for this cause. His stops included Rohrbach’s Brewing Company in Rochester, F.X. Matt Brewing Company in Utica and Upstate Brewing Company in Elmira.

Schumer said there is no compelling evidence the spent grains are affecting health or safety, and there is no reason to regulate them in such a restrictive manner.

“I made clear to Commissioner Hamburg when we spoke that this ridiculous rule would have been extremely damaging for Upstate New York, harming both our burgeoning craft brew industry and farmers alike,” said Schumer. “I am glad she realized that the proposed rule is misguided and that she is committed to protecting this win-win transaction. I will continue to watch the FDA like a hawk as they revise this rule over the months ahead.”

Spent grain, or “wet grains,” can be sold straight from breweries to farms at a very low cost, and are often donated from brewer to farmer. Schumer explained that these grains are perfect for use as an animal feed because the ‘wet’ grains hydrate animals as they eat.

It is estimated that almost 90 percent of brewers dispose of spent grain in the form of animal feed.

If the proposed rule would have moved forward, the new regulations would have forced brewers to meet a series of requirements before selling or donating their spent grains, which would have driven up costs for both brewers and farmers.

Brewers would have had to go through a costly hazard analysis to meet requirements. Schumer said such a process is unnecessary and burdensome given the lack of any documented health risk to humans or animals.

The brewing industry estimates that compliance with the proposed rule could cost brewers over $50 million a year and could be a significant burden on small brewers who produce fewer than 1,000 barrels of beer annually.

For many brewers, the cost of meeting these requirements would be higher than simply tossing the grain.