FDA backs off proposal to regulate use of grains for animal feed to the relief of brewers

MILWAUKEE - The federal government is backing off proposed regulations that brewers say would add to their costs without improving the safety of grain used to feed livestock.

Many beer makers sell or give grain leftover from the brewing process to farmers, who use it as feed for dairy cows and other animals.

The grain would be affected by new food safety rules being developed under the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokesman Dr. Dan McChesney says livestock feed is generally safe, but the agency wants to ensure brewers' grain is handled properly during the transfer from breweries to farms.

Rather than haul it away and feed it, the FDA was proposing restrictions that would require brewers to dry out the mash, package it and then feed it.

"It would create an additional challenge for sure. And really, an additional business," said Chad Melis with Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont. "It probably wouldn't be affordable."

Brewers worried the rule would add costs for testing, training and paperwork.

At New Belgium brewery in Fort Collins, several tons of mash are created daily and shipped to dairy and beef cattle farmers.

"And it's worked this way for many, many decades," said Bryan Simpson, spokesman for New Belgium. "To take that away, or make it more difficult, doesn't make a lot of front line sense in my mind. To the best of our knowledge, there's never been a case of human or animal illness associated with this process."

Brewers worried the new rules would result in the grains being dumped in landfills.

"It would be very cost prohibitive, even for a large brewery like us to put in the equipment and infrastructure in order to dry this mash down and then package it,"  said Geoffrey Hess at Hops and Heifers Farm.

The Beer Institute in Washington was pressuring the FDA to fix the costly proposal.

McChesney says the agency will take another look at the rule and clarify it.

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