Madison (WKOW)-- A historic partnership between breweries and local farmers is in jeopardy after a proposed rule change from the U.S Food and Drug Administration. The new regulation, which has yet to go in effect, would regulate how animal feed is stored, cleaned and distributed. The agency says the regulation will protect pets and livestock from getting sick off of spoiled and tainted animal feed.
The new regulation would affect hundreds of breweries nationwide who give their used up barley, wheat and other grains to local farmers. Many Wisconsin breweries including Capital, The Wisconsin Brewing Company and Minhas Brewery have partnerships with area farmers.
"It's a very efficient and economic way to dispose of something that we're done with. It doesn't hit a landfill or cause any problems with trash or things like that," Capital Brewery Vice President of Sales Corey Wehling says.
At Capital Brewery they go through between 6,000 and 8,000 pounds of grain every day they brew beer. A flat bed truck hauls the used up grains to a local farm a few times every week. Farmers say the free grain saves them hundreds of dollars a week on animal feed. Brewers also benefit by saving thousands of dollars in disposal costs.
"It's kind of a win-win situation all the way around. It doesn't need to be regulated that we see," Wehling says. "Our system has always worked fine."
Managers at Capital Brewery say the proposed FDA regulation would force them to dry, clean and analyze the grains before they can send them out. They say the additional equipment and space that would be required to do this would cost the company tens of thousands of dollars every year. Larger companies like Miller and Anheuser Busch would likely be forced to spend millions to clean and store their grains.
Managers at Capitol say the extra cost would likely be put on consumers if the regulation were to take effect. This concern was the main topic of conversation during last week's Craft Brewers Conference in Denver.
"It was pretty important for the group," Wehling says. "It was on everybody's minds. We had a long discussion about it."
Wehling says that during Captial Brewery's ten year partnership with local farmers there has never been a case of an animal getting sick off their grains. He says that during the Craft Brewers Conference not a single brewer could remember a situation where animal got sick off of used grains.
The Brewers Association has since devoted a large amount of resources to lobby against the rule in Washington D.C. Several national politicians have also joined the discussion. Four U.S. Senators from heavy beer-producing states have proposed a bill to exempt breweries from the regulation. They call it the "Protecting the Sustainable Use of Spent Grains Act."
More than a dozen U.S. Senators have also sent letters to the FDA Commissioner, asking him to consider the effect this new regulation would have on breweries. Wisconsin Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin was among the politicians who are siding with brewers.
The FDA recently announced that they are taking the beermaking industry's concerns into consideration. The agency plans to release a revised version of the rule sometime this Summer.
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