Hi everyone. We held another call with FDA this week. As the FDA’s animal feed/spent grain proposed rules continue to get coverage in the press, I thought it was time for an update to my April 3rd message. Nothing has changed substantively from the details of that message:
•    FDA indicated they do not want to see spent grain go to landfills. They do want to see it continue to go to farmers.
•    FDA does not intend to grant a full exemption to brewers in the animal feed rules.
•    Paperwork requirements are expected to be minimal and not an onerous burden for small brewers.
•    The revised proposed animal food rules will be published for further public comment this summer.

The framing of the issue has changed somewhat. Some significant Members of Congress are engaging on the issue, and that is pressuring FDA to respond. FDA posted a blog on the matter on April 24th:  http://blogs.fda.gov/fdavoice/index.php/2014/04/getting-it-right-on-spent-grains/. This blog strikes me as interesting—the approach seems to be “We at FDA have heard you, we are listening, we are clarifying the rules and going to get this right.” Not said in the blog is the position that FDA still does not clearly grant brewers the exemption that the Brewers Association called for in our comments based on the clear language of the law.   Many of our Representatives and Senators support our interpretation.  The caution is to look beyond the rhetoric generated by the political and media attention and determine how far the FDA will move toward our substantive policy position. FDA will try to paint their position as responsive and they have reached out and demonstrated that they understand our position. While some media portrayals are that FDA has “backed off,” there remains a long way for FDA to go to reasonably address the situation.

FDA expressed to the Brewers Association that “very small businesses will be exempt from the written food safety plan requirement.”  But under the current FDA proposal, even small and very small businesses must complete certifications concerning hazards and maintain additional records that could be the equivalent to a full HACCP plan in terms of time and expense. (A very small business by the proposed rule does less than $500k in annual animal feed sales, so that covers nearly all, if not all facilities.)  Other safety requirements were related to us by FDA as not being burdensome, but we will have to look at the next proposal carefully.

If you believe your business should be exempt from the proposed animal feed rules, feel free to let your representatives and senators know that fact, and that they can reach out to the co-chairs of the House Small Brewers Caucus and Senate Bipartisan Small Brewers Caucus to coordinate communication to FDA. Congressman DeFazio’s office is the point of contact in the House and  Senator Wyden’s office in the Senate.

We have brought FDA part of the way toward the solution intended by Congress. We do anticipate submitting further comments to FDA when the revised proposed rules are published. When talking to the media, here are some points you can consider:
•    For centuries, brewers have provided spent grains to farmers, and we have not seen any evidence that justifies new FDA regulation.
•    The use of brewers spent grains by farmers for animal feed is an outstanding environmental solution that makes one company’s waste another’s feedstock.
•    We believe, along with many members of Congress, that the intent of Congress as written in the law was to exempt brewers from the Food Safety Modernization Act based on the existing federal and state regulations governing production, labeling, and distribution that do not apply to most other foods.
•    Alcohol beverage production is already a highly regulated industry in terms of public safety and it isn’t logical to pile senseless regulation on top of what is already in place.

Paul Gatza, Director
Brewers Association