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Brewers get win as FDA agrees to back off spent grain regulations

Ryan Delaney
The bottling line at F.X. Matt Brewery in Utica, N.Y.

Federal food regulators are backing off of proposed changes to what craft brewers can do with the leftover grains from the beer making process.

Craft brewers in New York have said the proposal would hurt their businesses.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) had called for the Food and Drug Administration to abandon the change. He announced Thursday FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg agreed to revise the rule to avoid "unintended consequences" that would harm brewers and farmers.

Brewers provide spent grain to dairy farmers as a low-cost or free source of cow feed.

"It’s primarily given to farmers," said New York State Brewers Association Executive Director Paul Leone. "Some buy it, but it’s really just a great way to get this spent grain out to people who need it. And the cows love it."

The proposal would have classified companies that distribute spent grain as animal feed manufacturers. The classification would have meant new requirements for brewers that would drive up their costs and force higher beer prices.

"You’re talking close 660 million pounds of spent grain that will either to landfills – mostly go to landfills if we’re not able to continue to do the centuries old practice of re-purposing the centuries old practice of giving it to farmers as feed," Leone said.

The FDA is going to open a second public comment period and try to seek a compromise.