Last week, we reported that the Food and Drug Administration had proposed new rules that would regulate how brewers dispose of their spent grains.

Craft brewers throughout Central Oregon have historically given the grains to local farmers for use as livestock feed, or sold the grains for a minimal expense.

The relationship seemed to move along smoothly until the FDA got involved. Now brewers face the prospect of meeting stricter guidelines to continue the practice.

The rules have generated outcry from brewers throughout the region as they cannot understand the reasoning behind adding regulations to a seemingly harmless relationship. Deschutes Brewery CEO Gary Fish stressed that he knows of no instance where providing spent grains to farmers has resulted in any food borne illnesses. Joe Barker, co-owner of Prineville-based Solstice Brewing Company, has said the same.

So we have to ask, why add the rules? If the FDA has a reason, it has yet to reach the ears of Central Oregon brewers, or even those of Congressman Greg Walden, who wrote to the agency asking them to reconsider.

Walden’s spokesman Andrew Malcolm speculated that a major livestock feed company raised concerns that prompted the FDA to act. Perhaps, somewhere in the country an issue has arisen that neither regional brewers nor Congress has yet heard about.

However, until the reason is spelled out and a problem is presented that is driving this action, we think the FDA should leave well enough alone. Not only are they stifling or possibly ending a mutually-beneficial relationship between brewers and farmers and ranchers, they are putting an additional burden on a thriving local industry.

Barker said the ruling could cause him additional expense as he would need to find a way to pay for the disposal of his grains in the landfill. And his operation is quite small compared to Deschutes Brewery and other Bend-area beer makers. What would it cost them?

Hopefully, Walden will succeed in convincing the FDA to reconsider its proposal. If not, it will be yet another example of a federal agency making it harder to do business.

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