GORHAM, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- For the past decade, Norm Justice has filled up everything from pick-up trucks to tractor trailers full of spent grain left over from the beer making process to feed to his cows.
"I once was just able feed what they produced to my cattle and it has grown to where I feed cattle across Maine now," explained Justice, who's business delivering the feed has grown in lock step with the growth of Allagash Brewing Company.
Now he travels as far away as Fairfield, bringing the cheap feed supplement to other farmers seeking a cost-effective supplement to feed their livestock.
His business, and the livelihood of many farmers could be in jeopardy if new rules proposed by the Food and Drug Administration go into effect.
"It makes no sense," complained Justice. "I wouldn't ask you to eat anything I wouldn't eat, so I am not going to feed a product to my cattle that would endanger them."
The FDA's proposal would require breweries to dry and package the spent grain leftover from the beer brewing process before it could be given to farmers to use as feed.
"The transfer of spent grain, as we call it, to farmers has been going on for decades and decades," stated Jason Perkins, Allagash's brew master. "It is just this kind of perfect, symbiotic
relationship between a brewer and a farmer."
Perkins says they create about 10,000 pounds of spent grain daily, and give all of it to Justice to feed his cows free of charge. All Justice has to do is take it off their hands.
"We get what we need out of it, and what is left is just great livestock feed," said Perkins.
He says processing the spent grain would require the brewery to invest in equipment and would add to their workload, resulting in increased operational costs.
"There is absolutely zero evidence, over many, many decades, that the feeding of spent grain to livestock has any risk whatsoever," he said.
Every brewery he knows of in Maine, and roughly 90% of the breweries nationwide, give their spent grain to farmers according to Perkins. He says most don't charge farmers because the breweries are saved the disposal costs. If the rule change goes into effect, he believes many breweries may just throw it away or use it as compost, robbing farmers of a cheap source of nutrition that is safe.
"We're hopeful that the FDA will see the error of their ways in this particular proposal," said Perkins.
Members of Maine's congressional delegation have called upon the FDA to exempt breweries from the proposed rule changes. The head of the FDA says they have reopened the public comment period on the proposal and says the FDA will seek to find a suitable solution.