WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter today, Senators Susan Collins and Angus King urge the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to consider the economic effect of regulating so-called “spent grains” when crafting a final rule to protect our nation’s food supply. Spent grains is the term used to refer to the product that is leftover after a brewer heats grains to extract sugar, protein, and other nutrients used in the beer-making process. Rather than discard this byproduct, for centuries, many beer-makers have sold or donated it to local farmers to be used as animal feed. However, both beer-makers and farmers have told Senators Collins and King that a new rule proposed by the FDA for handling of this material would “effectively prohibit brewers from providing spent grains to farmers,” therefore imposing significant economic burdens on both brewers and farmers.
Following is the full text of the letter that Senators Collins and King, along with a bipartisan group of eleven of their colleagues, sent to FDA:
March 31, 2014
The Honorable Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20993
Dear Commissioner Hamburg:
We are writing to express the concerns of small brewers in our states regarding the FDA’s proposed rule on manufacturing practices with respect to animal foods (Docket Number FDA-2011-N-0922) (the “Proposed Rule”). We recognize the importance of food safety, but ask that the agency consider the economic effect of its effort to include so-called “spent grains” produced by brewers within the scope of the rule.
During the process of making beer, brewers heat grains to extract sugars, proteins, and other nutrients. These spent grains are a byproduct of this process and serve no useful purpose for the brewer. Since at least the Middle Ages, brewers have donated or sold (often for very little money) these spent grains to farmers, who may use them as feed for livestock. A recent study indicates that nearly 90 percent of spent grains produced by craft brewers is used for animal feed.
The Proposed Rule would effectively end this centuries-old practice. The cost of compliance with the rule would effectively prohibit brewers from providing spent grains to farmers for animal feed. These include costs to identify potential food safety hazards, estimate how likely they are to occur, predict how severe the effects would be, identify and implement preventative controls, monitor spent grains for any hazards, and develop a written recall plan. Inevitably, limiting a source of free, or nearly free, animal feed will mean additional costs for the farmers who use spent grains.
The effect of these additional requirements would be particularly pronounced among the small business owners who make up the American craft beer industry. Nationally, small and independent brewers employ over 108,000 full- and part-time employees, generate more than $3 billion in wages and benefits, and pay more than $2.3 billion in business, personal, and consumption taxes. Legislation has been introduced in the Senate (S.917) that, if enacted, is projected to create more than 5,000 new jobs in small breweries in the first year to 18 months after passage, and create approximately 400 new jobs annually thereafter.
We urge you to craft a final rule that protects our food supply and is minimally disruptive to this long-standing practice, which benefits farmers and brewers alike.
cc: The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services
cc: The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary, Department of Agriculture