Opinion: Free New Hampshire’s brews!
New Hampshire residents love their craft beer. There is no shortage of the malted goodness in the Granite State, which boasts over thirty breweries from Nashua to Portsmouth to Lebanon. But, despite all the opportunities that the industry has created for our state, the federal government is trying to take the froth out of the booming industry.
The legacy of prohibition, a notorious three-tier system requiring brewers, distributors, and retailers to remain separate entities, essentially banning many breweries from selling their own beer, haunts the micro-brewing world. This makes it difficult for small breweries to expand without increasing their costs exponentially.
And, now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to tack onto these costs. A proposed rule would regulate the transfer of spent grain to local farmers who use the grain as cattle feed. This mutually beneficial transaction helps brewers dispose of the grains while also making excellent feed for cows. But, to comply with the proposed regulation, a brewery would have to have its spent grain approved for cattle feed prior to being put into specific packaging before being transported to the cattle farms.
Smuttynose Brewing Co. out of Hampton has said that they use about 2,500 to 3,000 pounds of grain per batch of beer per year. If the FDA were to enforce this regulation the brewery would be forced to stop providing spent grain to farms – due to cost of compliance – and would instead have to figure out how to compost such an enormous amount of natural waste.
In this case, the federal government is attempting to overtax and overregulate an industry that is already overtaxed and overregulated by prohibition-style laws.
In a letter to the FDA Commissioner, Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen – a Republican and Democrat – asked the FDA to reconsider its proposal. They explained that donating spent grain to farms for livestock feed is a centuries-old practice. They continued by saying that the effects of the proposed regulation would have on small business owners would be extremely detrimental to the state of New Hampshire.
Sen. Ayotte has been particularly active in promoting craft brewery freedom. She recognizes breweries play a crucial role in the local economy in addition to becoming an increasingly popular pursuit among young people. According to a recent study, beer drinkers in New Hampshire, especially Millennials, are seeking out craft beer more frequently. Young people can appreciate Sen. Ayotte’s leadership on this issue.
There’s a reason many lawmakers have avoided reforming and simplifying the industry. Bootleggers, who benefit from increased regulation, have joined forces with Baptists, who are sincerely concerned with encouraging well-being, to skunk as many craft brewed kegs as possible. Bootleggers and Baptists both support increased regulation on the industry and often have the political clout to get their wishes.
A brewery’s success should not be determined by an ability to navigate the regulatory maze. New Hampshire’s craft brewing needs fewer regulations and a simpler, streamlined system. In order for young entrepreneurs in the granite state to put their beers in more hands we need to free the brews.
Nick Pappas, 28, is the New Hampshire State Director for Generation Opportunity, a youth advocacy organization.