Biobased products creating millions of U.S. jobs

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Photo by Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Fuel pumps at an Illinois BP gas station. Under the options, consumers are notified that gas contains up to 10 percent ethanol.

Federal agencies are required to buy products made from materials that were once living.

The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 mandated that if the products are reasonably priced and available, federal agencies have to buy them.

Biobased products are made from plant, animal or renewable material. Some examples include plant and vegetable inks, plastics and cleaners. It also includes ethanol.

It’s big business for some agribusiness companies such as Archer Daniels Midland.

The Decatur-based agribusiness giant reported $704 million in operating profits from bioproduct sales in 2014, according to company filings.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report released on June 17 said that in 2013 alone, the biobased product industry contributed $369 billion to the U.S. economy and employed more than 4 million workers.

“This means small businesses and global companies alike can continue to harness the power of America’s farms and forests to create innovative biobased products that are used around the world,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release.

The USDA’s Office of Procurement and Property Management published two final rules related to biobased products on June 15, Biomass Magazine reports:

One rule amends regulations concerning the voluntary labeling program for biobased products, the other amends regulations for designating biobased products for federal procurement.

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Ethanol Producer Magazine reported that other rule would expand the definition of “biobased product” to include a broader range of innovative products.

The final BioPreferred program rules will no longer exclude mature market products (those that had a significant market share prior to 1972), providing consumers with more innovative wood products and other materials carrying USDA BioPreferred® label. Forest products that meet biobased content requirements, notwithstanding the market share the product holds, the age of the product, or whether the market for the product is new or emerging, also now meet the definition of “biobased product.”

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The newly released report estimates biobased products such as ethanol displace about 300 million gallons of petroleum per year, the equivalent of taking 200,000 cars off the road.

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