WASHINGTON — 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.