Every presidential election cycle I notice that a lot of people in this country do not know exactly how our government works. Yes, the president is the most powerful individual in this country’s government. However, the president is not a monarch. The President is powerful in a narrowly defined role.
Another part of government citizens do not get is how powerful agencies are. The day to day function of government and most of citizen’s interaction with government is at the agency level. Many of the rules and regulations agencies operate under are never voted on by politicians beholden to the voting public. These are rules and regulations the politicians expect the agency experts to enact based on their experience and expertise.
What if the experts don’t know what they are talking about? In 2014 the FDA as part of an overhaul of its food safety rules proposed a solution to something that had not been a problem for the history of brewing. They wanted to regulate the use of spent grain as food for cattle and pigs. Never mind that there had never been a recorded case of animals getting sick from spent grain or humans getting sick from eating animals that had eaten spent grain. This was a solution in search of a problem that would cause more time and expense for brewers already operating on the bare minimum of both.
These regulations were rejected after the whole of the brewing world threw a collective fit in newspapers, magazines, and at regulatory hearings, but it does highlight something we in the craft beer world should consider. The concept of craft brewing is so new that people don’t fully understand it or its culture.
The average beer drinker had no idea brewers give away their spent grain to local farmers. That assumes the average beer drinker knows where beer comes from in the first place. For all the sturm and drang Big Beer acquisitions of craft brewers engenders within the craft brew community, the average drinker doesn’t care. They just want one of two things: beer that tastes good and to be a part of this new cool craft beer thing.
It is no surprise that FDA regulators had no idea of the history of spent grain, brewers, and farmers. Much like people who work in craft beer, the regulators lives and field of vision are very myopic. They spend most of their time becoming experts in their field of study or the machinations of bureaucracy. They have no connection to beer or brewing. I am fully confident that this spent grain proposal was not considered that important or controversial by the people who proposed it because they had no context in which to think about it.
The process did work. Bureaucrats with no context to understand the real effects of a solution with no problem, proposed the solution. The people whom would be most adversely affected by this regulation raised hell. The regulation was reconsidered and shelved.