Proposed rule could mean higher costs for local microbrews

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Chris Kirkham raises cows, sheep, pigs and chicken. But he comes to the Yakima Brewing Company at least once a week - not to buy beer.

"It's been nothing but a blessing to me," said Chris.

Chris picks up the leftover barley and malt after it's been used for a batch. He feeds the spent grain to his animals.

The spent grain is what brewers get after they've extracted the sugar from the grain. That's the base for your beer.

Brewer Jeff Winn has been happy to give the grain away as an economically efficient way to recycle, but that might have to change.

"We would have to pre-process some of that as a food and basically certify it as a food; that's an expense that we just can't afford," said Jeff.

The problem is a proposal under the FDA Food Modernization Act. It would force brewers to implement new processing and handling guidelines before they could provide the grain to farmers. The FDA says the requirement would protect the food given to animals - and what eventually winds up in the supermarket for all of us.

That means higher expenses for Jeff. Even if he tosses the grain, he would have to pay to send it to a landfill. And Chris would lose his supply.

"If I weren't able to have this source of feed for my animals, I'd have to reduce or eliminate my hog production," said Chris.

"I could see it impacting the end customer by as much as a quarter, fifty cents a glass," said Jeff.

A proposal they see as a lose-lose for everyone.

The FDA plans to review the proposed rule change. It still wants to hold brewers and distillers responsible for protecting the food supply. The agency is working to have all of the rules finalized by August 2015.