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Secretary's Column: New Progress Toward a Thriving Biobased Economy

Posted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in USDA Results Conservation
Jul 12, 2013

Across the United States, the potential to use homegrown crops in new ways holds tremendous promise to revitalize the rural economy. Innovators across the country – from small businesses to global companies – are creating amazing new biobased products that we use every day. Everything from cleaning products to packaging materials are now made from crops grown right here at home by America’s farmers.

In recent years, USDA has taken steps to support these efforts through the “BioPreferred” program, designed to help companies market biobased products. Additionally, under President Obama, the Federal government has prioritized these biobased products for procurement and use.

This week, USDA expanded the variety of biobased products that the Federal government will purchase and use. We added new categories – including new cleaners for marine and aviation use, biobased cleaning products, paint removers, motor oil and more. With this expansion, we now recognize 97 separate product categories and more than 10,000 unique types of biobased products.

The Federal government is already using a wide variety of these biobased products. For example, Yellowstone National Park uses biobased lubricants and cleaning products throughout its 2.2 million acres. At the Statue of Liberty, biobased hydraulic oils are used in the elevator system. And multiple U.S. military bases across the nation are using biobased products – everything from bedding, towels and sheets to soaps and cleaners for military equipment.

In addition to expanding Federal use of biobased products, USDA also recently reopened the application process for companies to apply for a “Certified Biobased Product” label. This unique label, backed by certification, helps consumers identify hundreds of biobased products that appear on store shelves today.

While budget reductions have created uncertainty in recent months, we know a strong biobased economy has real impacts for folks. These products will create new income for farmers and new job opportunities across rural America – and by harnessing biobased products, we can reduce America’s dependence on oil.

This week’s new effort is critical to our mission to revitalize the rural economy. It’s possible for USDA to focus on such priorities in part because our proactive efforts have saved more than $828 million in recent years – allowing us to stay focused on these mission-critical priorities.

This effort is also yet another reminder of the importance of Farm Bill programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the biobased economy – and that’s just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.

For our part, at USDA we will continue investing in a strong biobased economy. By expanding opportunities to create groundbreaking new biobased products, we can help innovative companies create new jobs in our small towns and revitalize the rural economy.

Category/Topic: USDA Results Conservation