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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed new rules for how brewers and distillers handle their spent grain that fly in the face of common sense and fiscal and environmental soundness.
Currently many brewers and distillers in Vermont and beyond provide their spent grain to area farmers where it is used to feed their livestock. Spent grain is of no use to brewers, but it is a valuable food source for farmers.
This very common practice achieves several things – it keeps the grain out of landfills (and Vermont law is about to prohibit putting any organic materials in landfills), saving brewers and distillers money, and it provides feeds for farmers, saving them money as well.
Keeping the spent grain out of landfills prolongs landfill life and reduces the methane gases produced at landfills.
The FDA rule would require brewers to dry and then package the spent grain before it goes to farmers. Additionally, it creates other record-keeping, processing and testing requirements.
According to Vermont Congressman Peter Welch, the FDA has failed to demonstrate the need for the changes and has further not justified the harm it will cause to brewers and farmers.
Welch called the proposed rules "a solution in search of a problem" this week.
The model that we should be looking for in our food and beer production, our waste management and our disposition of our organic waste should be to keep that circle as tight and local as possible.
Grow the grain as close to the breweries and distilleries as possible. When it is spent, get it to a local farmer for his or her livestock. Eat that local livestock when possible and use the manure from that pig or cow or sheep for compost.
There is no need to make it more complicated that than. Our brewers and distillers deserve better than that. Our farmers deserve better than that and our landfills definitely deserve better than that.