The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing new guidelines for the BioPreferred program that could expand its ability to designate biobased products for federal purchase. The USDA is proposing to allow the designation of intermediate ingredients and complex assembly products as well as revise some definitions and terminology used in the existing guidelines to clarify operating procedures.
As of March 2012, the USDA has certified over 670 biobased products from more than 200 companies. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack pointed out that these USDA-certified biobased products are available to consumers and are now appearing on the shelves of supermarkets and other businesses across the country.
Creating new markets for the nation’s agricultural products through biobased manufacturing is one of the many steps President Obama’s 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.
The 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.
The USDA will establish a minimum biobased content for each intermediate ingredient or feedstock category based on an evaluation of the available biobased content data. The biobased content will be determined via ASTM D6866 testing.
The new regulation also allows for the designation of complex assembly products, which are multi-component assembled products with one or more component being made with biobased material. These provisions are necessary because such finished products cannot be tested for biobased content using the procedures spelled out in the existing guidelines.
The USDA is proposing that the biobased content of complex assemblies be calculated using an equation that yields a weighted average and is based on the summation of the biobased content of each individual component that contains, or could contain, biobased material divided by the total weight of all those components.
The USDA is also proposing to revise some of the definitions and terminology used in the existing guidelines. Mr. 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.
An example of the proposed change is the replacement of the term “designated item” with “designated product category” when referring to a generic grouping of biobased products eligible for the procurement preference.
The current mature market exclusion limits the types of product categories eligible for the Federal procurement preference. The USDA describes mature market products as those biobased products with significant national market penetration in 1972, e.g. cotton shirts or towels and wood furniture.
The USDA is proposing to remove the exclusion for products that are determined to have mature markets as part of its efforts to emphasize the intent to create new and emerging markets for biobased materials.
The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register (77 FR 25632) on May 1, 2012. Public comments on these proposed rule amendments are accepted until July 2, 2012.
ASTM D6866 laboratory Beta Analytic is not affiliated with the USDA or the BioPreferred Program.