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Biobased Products Important to the Bioeconomy

Last week, I had the pleasure of serving as moderator for a Google+ Hangout examining USDA’s BioPreferred program and the growing bioeconomy. The Hangout was like a visit with old and new friends discussing a subject on which we all agree: biobased products are here to stay!

It was gratifying to see such an excellent panel representing a cross section of this flourishing industry; among them, Ray Miller of Verdezyne, a renewable industrial biotechnology biobased chemicals manufacturer. Ray told Hangout participants the BioPreferred program serves as a respected, independent source of information on new carbon content of bioproducts and said many studies such as this one indicate the production of the chemicals from biobased feed stocks is growing rapidly worldwide.

Also on the panel was Greg Blake of Biosynthetic Technologies, a manufacturer/formulator of biobased oils, including crankcase oils, which can be recycled along with their petroleum-based counterparts. From Greg, we learned that bio-oils, the technology of which was developed in cooperation with USDA researchers and licensed from USDA, fully meet American Petroleum Institute performance requirements.

We’ve known ISSA’s (The Worldwide Cleaning Association) Bill Balek for years and have attended and exhibited at association conferences. Bill told Hangout participants ISSA members are moving to “green” cleaners and pointed out there are more products in the biobased cleaning area than any other designated categories. He says many times, biobased products clean as well or better than their toxic counterparts and can even be less expensive.

I was pleased to see Seventh Generation, which makes cleaning and personal care products, accept our offer to “Hangout.” I work closely with Seventh Generation as they move to have all their products earn the voluntary USDA certification. Associate Scientist Heidi Raatikainen discussed the company’s commitment to making toxin-free products and said, “The partnership with USDA enhances our core beliefs.”

Finally, we heard from Dennis Hall of the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center – OBIC – an alliance of industry, academia and policymakers working to hasten commercialization of bioproduct technologies. Dennis told us how OBIC is creating “clusters” of biobased companies in Ohio and beyond, and pointed out that the State of Ohio has adopted a biobased preferred procurement program based on, and directly linked to, USDA’s BioPreferred program.

The BioPreferred market development program is designed to increase the use of biobased products: industrial products made from renewable materials like corn, soybean, other commodities, wood, and forestry materials. Inaugurated with the 2002 Farm Bill, the program was renewed in 2008 and is yet another example of why a comprehensive new Farm Bill is needed now.

BioPreferred harnesses the purchasing power of the federal government by designating biobased products for preferred procurement. It also issues voluntary “USDA Certified Biobased Product” labels to promote consumer awareness of lubricants, cleaners, bioplastics, construction materials and other products. So far, USDA has designated 97 categories of products for preferred federal purchasing and has issued about 1,000 consumer labels. By partnering with these pioneers of the biobased industry, the USDA BioPreferred program is helping to create new jobs for farmers and a strong market for renewable agricultural resources. But don’t take my word for it, watch the Hangout for yourself!

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