WGDB: Beer Taxes, Regs a Bipartisan Issue

Posted April 27, 2014 at 7:04am

Fighting beer regulations and taxes has brought members of both parties together.

Lawmakers in both parties have been worried the Food and Drug Administration would impose new regulations restricting the repurposing of grains used in the brewing process that currently get used as animal feed.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has been visiting breweries over the two-week recess period to criticize the possibility. He said in a statement Thursday that he had been assured the FDA would not go down that road.

“I made clear to Commissioner [Margaret] Hamburg when we spoke that this ridiculous rule would have been extremely damaging for Upstate New York, harming both our burgeoning craft brew industry and farmers alike,” Schumer said in a statement. “I am glad she realized that the proposed rule is misguided and that she is committed to protecting this win-win transaction. I will continue to watch the FDA like a hawk as they revise this rule over the months ahead.”

Numerous senators have been active on the issue, including the Maine delegation and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who faces a tough re-election fight.

“I am proud the FDA has heeded my call to ensure its rules on brewers’ spent grains work for Colorado’s innovative and job-creating beer producers. This decision is something brewers and ranchers alike can raise a glass to, and I was proud to champion their shared concerns,” Udall said in a statement. “Colorado brewers and ranchers’ partnerships have shown how spent grains can be a cost-effective and safe livestock feed. I will keep fighting to ensure these partnerships are not imperiled by federal red tape.”

Nebraska GOP Sen. Mike Johanns, a former secretary of Agriculture, had criticized the proposed changes in an April 15 letter.

“Whether the byproducts are from ethanol plants, breweries, or human food manufacturers, these are an important part of the supply chain for animal food and help companies reduce waste and create additional value. However, the proposed rule included a number of new requirements that would have made the distribution of byproducts cost-prohibitive,” Johanns wrote.

There’s been legislative chatter too. Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., visited Chicago’s Revolution Brewing to announce his support of the Small BREW Act, which would slash federal excise taxes on smaller brewers (those producing fewer than 6 million barrels in a year).

“Lowering these tax rates for small breweries will help grow small business and make burgeoning entrepreneurs more competitive,” Kirk said.

The Small BREW Act has 28 Democratic cosponsors, 10 Republicans and both independents; 93 Democrats and 63 Republicans have cosponsored the bill in the House.

There are two major pieces of brewer tax legislation pending before Congress, in addition to the Small BREW Act, the BEER Act would reduce excise taxes more broadly.