VERONA, Wis. - A proposed rule by the Food and Drug Administration could have a major impact on beer brewers and farmers in the area.
The FDA proposed the changes as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011.
The regulations, which aim to prevent food safety issues in both human and animal feed, could require some breweries to go to great expense to process spent grains or byproducts of the brewing process.
At Wisconsin Brewing Company some 8,000 pounds of spent grains are generated each week, and they are given to the Gobel Family Farm of Belleville to feed to their 550 head of dairy cattle.
"Brewers have given spent grain to farmers because it's a very good source of animal feed and it works out very well," brewmaster Kirby Nelson said.
Farmer Justin Gobel said the spent brewers grain helps put protein and other nutrients that could be costly to buy into the diets of their herd. While Wisconsin Brewing intends to charge a nominal fee once they're brewing at full capacity, right now they give it to the Gobels for free.
"It's a win-win right now for farmers and breweries," Gobel said.
But the whole relationship is in jeopardy because of the proposed rule change. Brewers may be required to dry and package the very wet grains before selling or giving them away in the name of food safety issues.
"That would just financially and practically not make any sense for us," Nelson said. "You'd have all this very sustainable byproduct of the brewing process ending up in landfills."
The Gobels said they're not concerned about the grain safety and have never had any issues. Nelson said in years of brewing across the country he's never known of an animal to get sick from the product.
After criticism of the rule from the brewing industry, the FDA said it will propose revised rules this summer.