Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the publication in the Federal Register  of new proposed guidelines for the USDA BioPreferred program that could expand the ability of USDA to designate biobased products for Federal purchase. USDA is proposing to allow for the designation of intermediate ingredients such as fibers, resins, and chemicals so that the products made from them could more easily be designated for preferred Federal procurement.
"USDA and the Obama administration are working with private industry to pursue an 'all of the above' energy strategy," Vilsack said. "These proposed guidelines are another example of the way the BioPreferred program is being tailored to supplement production of products from new farm-based sources, supporting economic expansion, and creating jobs from the farm to the finished product. Today, the development of both biofuels and bioproducts, using not just corn, but corn stover, soybeans, switchgrass, wood, camelina, energy cane, municipal solid waste, yellow oils, algae, and a host of other non-food feedstocks growing across the country are reducing our reliance on foreign oil."
The new regulation also allows for the designation of complex assemblies that contain one or more components made from biobased ingredients. These provisions are necessary because such finished products cannot be tested for biobased content using the procedures spelled out in the existing guidelines.
USDA is also proposing to revise some of the definitions and terminology used in the existing guidelines to clarify the operating procedures. Vilsack said these actions will incorporate statutory changes to the 2008 Farm Bill and will make improvements to the existing guidelines based on ten years of operating experience.
Vilsack also noted USDA has just celebrated the anniversary of one year of voluntary USDA biobased product certification and labeling. As of March, 2012, USDA has certified over 670 biobased products from more than 200 companies. Biobased industries have submitted more than 1,100 applications to USDA. Vilsack pointed out those USDA Certified Biobased Products are available to consumers and are now appearing on the shelves of supermarkets and other businesses across the country.
This Federal Register publication comes just days after the April 26 White House bioeconomy announcement to lay out a strategy to increase the use of agricultural products to improve rural economies and decrease dependence on oil imports. The proposed regulation can be read by going to: www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/05/01/2012-10420/guidelines-for-designating-biobased-products-for-federal-procurement .
Creating new markets for the nation's agricultural products through biobased manufacturing is one of the many steps the Administration has taken over the past three years to strengthen the rural economy. Since August 2011, the White House Rural Council has supported a broad spectrum of rural initiatives including a Presidential Memorandum to create jobs in rural America through biobased and sustainable product procurement, a $350 million commitment in SBA funding to rural small businesses over the next 5 years, launching a series of conferences to connect investors with rural start-ups, creating capital marketing teams to pitch federal funding opportunities to private investors interested in making rural and making job search information available at 2,800 local USDA offices nationwide.
Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council – chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – the President is committed to a smarter use of existing Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.