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U.S. Craft Brewers' growth chart
According to craft brewers from across the country, the FDA has found a solution for a non-existent problem, one that could ultimately raise the price of beer.

For years, microbreweries large and small, have sent their spent grains to farmers to be used for feed. What exactly are spent grains? From CraftBeer.com:

While breweries such as Twisted Pine Brewing Company and Hangar 24 Craft Brewery employ “farm-to-foam” approaches in creating seasonal beers using local ingredients, many others give back the bulk of their spent grain to their agricultural communities—from ”foam-to-farm” so to speak.

Oftentimes, craft brewers merely have to haul their spent grain a mile down the road to their very own farms. Larry Chase of Standing Stone Brewing Company in Ashland, Ore., feeds over five dozen chickens of various heritage on the grain from the brewery. They also distribute their feed into “grain beds [that] will transform into beautiful soil beds for planting future Standing Stone special fruits and vegetables,” according to Chase.

Rather than schlepping spent grain to their animals, Joleen and Brian Durham’s “girlfriends”—their twelve head of cattle—eagerly anticipate brew day at Piney River Brewing Company, located on an 80-acre farm in south central Mo., in the heart of the Ozarks. Already enticed away from their field by the sweet smell of mash, “They get as close as they can and moo for a bucket load of grain,” said Joleen Durham. “The girls are actually quite pig-like in their love for spent grain.” Despite the nation’s most widespread drought in six decades affecting farmers everywhere, Piney River’s “girlfriends” remain in prime shape thanks to their regular post-mash meals.

From the Ozarks to the Great Smoky Mountains and the Rockies, spent grain nourishes a variety of four-legged creatures. The Brewery at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn., part of a luxury resort and hotel, only produces three Belgian-style beers, but their grain feeds chickens, sheep, llamas and pigs, which, in turn, provide eggs, milk, wool and meat for patrons.

The practice of using spent grains for feed has long been seen as both a sustainable practice, keeping tons of grain out of landfills, and an economic boon for farmers, who pay little or nothing for the high quality grains.

But now the FDA has proposed a new rule that has both brewers and farmers outraged:

The proposal would classify companies that distribute spent grain to farms as animal feed manufacturers, possibly forcing them to dry and package the material before distribution.

The equipment and set up to do that would cost about $13 million per facility, said Scott Mennen, vice president of brewery operations at Widmer.

“That would be cost prohibitive,” Mennen said. “Most brewers would have to put this material in a landfill.”

The rule would affect brewers and distillers across the country. But it would also hurt consumers, said James Emmerson, executive brewmaster of Full Sail Brewing Co.

“Beer prices would go up for everybody to cover the cost of the equipment and installation,” said Emmerson.

After months of pushback from groups like the Brewers Association and increased pressure from politicians, the FDA is going to reconsider the language in the proposal:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will revise a proposed federal rule that critics say would pose financial hurdles for small breweries that long have provided leftover grains from the beer-making process for local farmers' use as animal feed.

Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, a national organization based in Boulder, said Friday that FDA officials have assured him that concerns raised by brewing and agricultural groups will be considered when it rewrites and issues a new version of the proposed regulation this summer.

Grab a cold beer from your local brewer and stay tuned for the new version of the proposal.

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