Udall Sides with Beer Breweries in FDA Dispute

April 1, 2014
By

beerWASHINGTON — Sen. Mark Udall has drawn criticism for being a Barack Obama clone who voted with the president’s issues 99 percent of the time last year, but the Democrat broke with the administration Monday to back a core Colorado constituency – beer breweries.

In a letter to the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Udall urged the agency to continue a policy that allows brewers to re-sell their spent grains to cattle farmers and ranchers.

Udall said this week that rescinding the policy, as the FDA first proposed in October, would be arbitrary.

“This particular part of the Animal Food (rule-making) while well intentioned, does not seem based on evidence of risk or hazard,” Udall wrote to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg.

“I hope FDA will reconsider its initial interpretation and formally review the body of evidence that exists in abundance on this particular topic to determine if in fact spent brewers grains warrant designation as ‘animal food,’” Udall said.

In a press release, Udall touted the economic benefits of the current policy to the beer industry and described the harm that could ensue if brewers were forced to dispose of their spent grains at landfills.

Udall echoed the results of a Brewers Association survey that found brewers re-sell nearly 90 percent of their spent grains. If they were barred from re-selling the grains, the average cost would be nearly $43 million a year.

Spent grains, the by-product of barley and malt, are nutrient rich and valuable. Brewers use them to make beer, while beef and dairy cows consume them. This dual use would end if the FDA proposal becomes law.

Hamburg told Congress last week that the FDA would work to find a reasonable compromise, according to Politico.

In this dispute, Udall has taken the side of brewers and farmers over that of environmentalists. Udall has been a durable supporter of liberal-leaning environmental interests as well as the Obama administration. According to a 2013 tally from Congressional Quarterly, Udall voted with President Obama’s position on the issue 99 percent of the time.

Conservative organizations have criticized Udall for his support for the second-term president, whose popularity ratings in Colorado have dipped to the low 40s. Udall has sought to put some distance between him and the administration, such as his opposition to the mass-surveillance policies of the National Security Administration and the letter to the FDA.

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2 Responses to Udall Sides with Beer Breweries in FDA Dispute

  1. Brian McFarlane
    April 1, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Mark Udall voted for the FSMA = Food Safety Modernization Act, Nov 30 2010. This bill did get 15 Republican votes but received 25 NO votes, all Republican. This bill was strongly opposed by Senator Coburn (R) of OK, it was sponsored by Richard Durbin (D). This Act is the root of the new rules on using spent grains for cattle feed from the FDA…

    “The federal government will tell our farmers and ranchers how to do something they’ve been doing since the dawn of mankind,” said Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-Okla.). “It goes too far in the direction of trying to produce food from a bureaucrat’s chair in Washington, D.C.”
    This bill would be the first major overhaul of food laws since 1938, it gave the FDA the power to oversee the safety of most foods, as well as drugs and cosmetics. 70+ years before FMSA, it was a knee jerk reaction to some food contamination at the time. Frank Lucas is exactly correct, we already have enough or too much regulation of business in general from D.C. This Act will do little to make food or feed safer as the industry inspects itself much closer and many more times than the FDA or Dept. of Ag. does… it will increase costs though. Brewers’ grains have been used as cattle feed for centuries, and the practice is generally considered safe.

    Brewers of all sizes must either adhere to new processes and regs or send their spent grain to landfills, wasting a reliable food source for farm animals and triggering a significant economic and environmental cost. This FDA rule could regulate hundreds if not thousands of breweries, distilleries and ethanol plants as “animal feed producers”. While the rule does propose possibly exempting smaller companies, those with between $500,000 – $2.5 million dollars in feed sales are the suggested threshold for this regulation.

    Many, if not most breweries donate the feed, so they would have no feed sales. IMO, it is not clear that they would be exempt if they are deemed “animal feed producers”.

    It is convenient for Udall to now speak out against this regulation (that he actually supported), now that it is an election year and he needs to be seen as siding with Colorado business. I think the FMSA was political window dressing at the time and seen as a “good intentions” Act, but as it happens so many times… good intentions pave the road to hell.

  2. April 18, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Aside from the politics ,I truly believes that FDA needs to better understand the specifics of “alternative feed directly to livestock”The overriding objective it would seem is to prevent harmful pathogens, and other contaminants from entering the food chain. Thus laws like The Federal Swine Act restricting indiscriminate feeding of slop to hogs was enacted.Many ,but not all States require sustained heating for “pathogen kill.”
    There are consistent, primarily pathogen and contaminant free byproducts waste such as brewers and distillers spent grains and those generated by growers and manufacturers that are safe. Post consumer and residential food waste need in our view to be outlawed unless blended under extremely high temperatures.
    Senator Udall,the brewers farmers,are right. FDA needs to do their homework on distinguishing,identifying,and differentiating sources of alternative animal feed.

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