Sen. Udall urges FDA to ensure grain regulations don’t hurt ranchers or brewers
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is urging the Food and Drug Administration to complete a risk assessment of the reuse of brewers’ spent grains as livestock feed, according to a news release from Udall’s office.
Under a proposed federal rule, breweries, ethanol producers and others that distribute spent grains for animal feed would be subject to enhanced food safety requirements under the FDA.
During interviews with The Fence Post last month, several in the local livestock, brewing and ethanol industries said the change would do nothing but add unnecessary paperwork and expenses to their respective processes.
The news release from Udall’s office on Monday said the FDA’s rulemaking could force brewers to dispose of these spent grains at landfills, forcing small breweries to incur an average cost of nearly $43 million per year — which could be passed onto consumers in higher prices or hinder job creation.
Udall wrote a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg this week, stressing that spent grains, whose sugars are fermented to make craft beer, are an economical and high-protein food source for beef and dairy cattle.
A 2013 Brewers Association survey of its members showed that brewers re-sell or give away nearly 90 percent of their spent grain as livestock feed.
“The FDA needs to ensure our food supply remains safe, but its new proposed rule may unjustifiably hurt Colorado’s brewers and farmers,” Udall said in the news release.
In his letter, Udall wrote that “the U.S. Department of Agriculture has decades worth of data that demonstrates the history of spent brewers grain used as animal food. This information does not reveal to my knowledge any evidence that dedicating spent brewers grains for agricultural use has ever compromised food safety to animals or humans.”
Udall’s news release and letter didn’t mention a risk assessment regarding distillers grains from ethanol production.
Livestock feeders also often add spent grains from ethanol producers to their overall grain rations to fortify protein content. According to Extension specialists, distillers grains from ethanol can be added to corn-based rations for finishing cattle at levels ranging from 10 to 40 percent of the total dry matter.
The FDA’s proposed rule would require facilities that handle food for animals to have a written food safety plan, prevention controls for likely hazards, a monitoring process, and procedures to address any contamination. Facilities would also have to keep all paperwork associated with its food safety plan on hand.
But companies that distribute spent grains stress that they already have safety procedures in place, and they don’t want to see more regulations.
The issue has drawn some attention in places like Colorado, where there’s about 1 million cattle on feed, and distillers grains and brewers grains have become fairly big business, especially between the ethanol plants and livestock feeders.
Front Range Energy, an ethanol producer in Windsor, for example, sells about 400,000 tons of the byproduct every year, and MillerCoors, based in Golden, has been selling its spent brewers grains to livestock feeders for more than 50 years.
Locals stress they don’t want the distillers and brewers grains exchange to become more cumbersome with new regulations, or more expensive for the cattle feeders — middlemen facing tight profit margins in a meat industry where cattle prices have skyrocketed but the price of beef hasn’t kept pace.
Local livestock feeders said that, with slim profit margins already, they’ll have to consider other feed options if the changed rules lead to price increases for distillers grains. ❖