USDA announces biobased products report and changes to biobased programs
On June 17, 2015, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the release of a report to congress that builds on the Why Biobased? report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2014. The new report, An Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry, shows that in 2013, the U.S. biobased industry added $369 billion dollars and four million jobs to the economy. The biobased products industry is comprised of many significant contributors to the U.S. economy including biorefining, biobased chemicals, bioplastics, enzymes, agriculture, forestry, and more. Due to the many sectors impacted by the biobased economy, every single job directly supporting the biobased product industry generates an additional 1.64 indirect jobs in the rest of the economy. In 2013, there were 1.5 million jobs created that directly supported the biobased industry, but those 1.5 million jobs also created 1.1 million indirect jobs in related industries and 1.4 million jobs due to increased economic activity, resulting in a net gain of four million jobs.
Secretary Vilsack also announced the addition of more forest products to the BioPreferred® program. Previously, mature market products (products with significant market share before 1972) were excluded from the program, forcing wood products and other mature market products to become more innovative. Now, any forest products that contain enough biobased content will qualify as a biobased product regardless of the market status for that product. Changes are also occurring for the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program, formerly the Biorefinery Assistance Program, that will assist in the development of advanced technologies. The program provides loan guarantees under the Farm Bill of up to $250 million to construct and retrofit commercial scale biobased product manufacturing facilities or biorefineries. The program is intended to promote advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased product manufacturing. The new rule allows biorefineries to produce more renewable chemicals and biobased products instead of primarily advanced biofuels.