Utica, NY - April 21, 2014 - Today at Saranac Brewery in Utica, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reverse course on a proposed rule that would be unnecessarily harmful to Upstate New York’s burgeoning craft brew industry and its farmers, which are the lifeblood of the region. Specifically, the FDA is attempting to regulate “spent grain” – a natural byproduct of the brewing process – in a way that would prevent brewers from selling or donating it directly to farmers who use it to feed animals. The FDA has proposed a new rule as part of its continued implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act that would put unnecessary regulation on brewers wishing to donate or sell spent grains. The new rule means these spent grains would be regulated in a way that could force brewers to trash the grains. Schumer said that there is no compelling evidence that the spent grains are affecting health or safety, and there is no reason to regulate them in such a restrictive manner. Schumer added that regulating spent grains would put a stop to a mutually beneficial transaction between brewers and farmers. The grain that breweries provide farmers is used almost solely as animal feed.
“A new federal rule proposed by the FDA is a double whammy for Upstate New York, harming both our burgeoning craft brew industry and farmers alike – it simply cannot go forward,” said Schumer.
“Brewers across Upstate New York have been selling spent grains to nearby farms for years, saving everyone involved valuable money and time, and providing a much-needed product for local farmers. But this proposed FDA rule would drive up costs for both farmers and brewers with no clear health or safety benefit,” said Schumer. “So I’m urging the FDA to do an about-face on this misguided rule, which would stymie a mutually-beneficial relationship between two of Upstate New York’s most important industries.”
Nick Matt, CEO of F.X. Matt Brewing Company, which makes the Saranac line of beers, agreed with Schumer, “The F.X. Matt Brewing Company has been providing spent grain to farmers since 1888. The process helps keep down both our costs and the farmers’. This FDA proposal against spent grain would reverse a century-old practice here at the brewery while driving up our costs. The FDA needs to reverse course on this issue, consider the opinions of our farmers, our brewers and Senator Schumer before it drafts any more plans to impede America’s brewers.”
Schumer was joined by Nick Matt, CEO F.X. Matt Brewing Co, Utica officials and Mohawk Valley Edge as he promised to fight for brewers like Saranac.
Spent grain, or “wet grains,” a natural byproduct of the brewing process, 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. What’s more, spent grains are also a good source of fiber and protein. It is estimated that almost 90 percent of brewers dispose of spent grain in the form of animal feed.
If the proposed rulemaking moves forward, the new regulations will force brewers to meet a series of requirements – including changing the way they store and monitor the spent grain – before selling or donating their spent grains to farmers, which will drive up costs for both brewers and farmers, with no additional safety benefit. Brewers would have to go through a costly hazard analysis, in which they would have to identify possible food safety risks, determine the likelihood of them occurring and the potential impacts, put preventive controls in place, and develop a written recall plan. Schumer said such a process is unnecessary and burdensome given the lack of any documented health risk to humans or animals.
For many brewers, the cost of meeting these requirements would be higher than simply tossing the grain. 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. Schumer noted this could even drive up costs for consumers, because eliminating this sort of collaboration would make production processes for both farmers and breweries less efficient.
Matt Brewing has been sharing spent grain with farmers since 1888 and currently provides farmers with over 19 million pounds of spent grain every year. Schumer says that forcing the brewery to reverse course on this century-old practice would drive up the costs for Utica’s renowned brewer and would hurt the entire brewing industry. The FDA is in the process of reviewing this rule, and has indicated they are open to revising it. Schumer is pressing the FDA to work with farmers and brewers on revising the rule so that it doesn't negatively impact brewers and farmers.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the FDA appears below:
Dear Commissioner Hamburg:
I would like to commend you on your efforts to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), as it is of great importance to our nation’s food supply. However, I would like to bring to your attention the potential negative impacts on the craft brewing and dairy that may result from one of the proposed rules related to implementation of the law for animal feed (FDA-2011-N-0922). As you move forward in the rule-making process, I urge you to take into consideration how these rules may negatively impact the availability of spent grains for sale or donation from craft brewing operations to farms for animal feed.
As you know, farmers and ranchers across New York State and the country rely on spent grains for feed. It is not only a good source of fiber and protein, but also offers an excellent source of hydration for animals. It is estimated that almost 90 percent of brewers dispose of spent grain in the form of animal feed. The product is normally shipped to local farmers around brewing operations, which offers a sustainable end use for this naturally occurring byproduct of beer production. Using spent grains as animal feed also avoids having them sent to a landfill. The brewing industry estimates that compliance with the proposed rule could cost over $50 million a year and could be a significant burden on small brewers who produce fewer than 1,000 barrels of beer annually. I hope you will take into consideration these negative impacts on and revise the proposed rule to uphold strong and meaningful food safety standards without placing unnecessary burdens on both brewers and farmers.
Oversight of brewers is under the jurisdiction of the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the Department of Treasury. The FSMA wisely deferred oversight of alcohol to the TTB and I agree with the craft brewers and dairy farmers this rule may duplicate TTB’s efforts. Again, I commend your efforts to implement many of the important provisions and programs in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), but urge you to take special consideration concerning the important relationship the brewers and farmers have maintained for hundreds of years to dispose of spent grains in a local and sustainable manner. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Charles E. Schumer