The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On January 8, 2018, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue presented to President Donald Trump the findings of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity.  The Task Force was established in 2017 following an Executive Order by President Trump to ensure the informed exercise of regulatory authority that impacts agriculture and rural communities.  According to the report, over 100 actions organized around five key topic areas, specifically e-connectivity, quality of life, rural workforce, innovation and technology, and economic development, were identified.
 
Of the recommendations related to economic development, the Task Force identified regaining American energy dominance as a key objective.  The report states that “[‌b]oosting production of all sources of energy from natural gas, oil, coal, nuclear, and renewables is essential to America’s national security interest and rural America’s economy.  The federal government must ensure a regulatory environment which can unleash this potential while keeping Americans safe and healthy.”

Regarding innovation and technology, the report recognizes biotechnology as “another area of U.S. leadership, being a sector that has driven innovation in fuels, chemicals, manufacturing, and agriculture.”  The Task Force recommended that:

  • The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other relevant agencies develop a communications strategy to increase acceptance of biotech products; and
  • The federal government continue efforts to modernize the federal regulatory system for biotechnology products, particularly by:
    • Coordinating the federal regulation of biotechnology products;
    • Coordinating interagency action through the Office of Science and Technology Policy; and
    • Expediting the commercialization of biotechnology products.
​​The full report is available on the USDA website.

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On January 4, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the University of Tennessee a $2,994,429 grant to improve biorefinery technologies through the Integrated Biorefinery Optimization (IBO) program.  The project aims to develop and commercialize solvent fractionated lignins to polymeric products for their potential market in building and construction sectors.  The overarching goal of the research is to develop integrated pathways for the extraction of value-added polymeric products from lignin waste/under-valued stream from biorefineries.  The IBO program is coordinated between NIFA and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and funds biorefinery technology development projects that aim to reduce costs and improve performance of integrated biorefineries to enhance U.S. energy security.  Funding for the project comes from NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which addresses challenges in food and agricultural sciences through research, extension, and education.


 

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) much anticipated and highly acclaimed annual Forecast, “Predictions and Outlook for U.S. Federal and International Chemical Regulatory Policy 2018,” is now available.  In the Forecast, the lawyers, scientists, and chemical regulatory specialists at B&C and its affiliated consulting firm, The Acta Group (Acta®), offer comprehensive and highly useful observations on the fast-changing and nuanced area of domestic and global chemical legal, scientific, and regulatory issues expected to be hot topics in 2018.  This 38-page document is chock-full of insights, predictions, and useful information.

Happy New Year and enjoying reading our predictions!

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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On December 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the release of a request for applications (RFA) for Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) projects.  The SBIR program is comprised of three phases. During Phase I, applicants determine the scientific or technical feasibility of their proposed ideas. Phase II requires a more comprehensive application, outlining the proposed effort in further detail. The purpose of Phase III is to stimulate technological innovation and return on investment from research carried out in the prior two phases.  Applicants must have successfully completed a USDA Phase I project before applying for a Phase II grant. 
 
NIFA is soliciting applications under 13 topic areas, including Biofuels and Biobased Products.  Projects dealing with agriculturally-related manufacturing and alternative and renewable energy technologies are encouraged across all 2018 SBIR topic areas. 
 
Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on March 8, 2018.  More information on the RFA is available on the NIFA website.

Tags: USDA, SBIR

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On November 8, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) issued a statement soliciting applications for its Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants Program.  The program aims to support the generation of new information that will assist federal regulatory agencies in making science-based decisions about the effects of introducing genetically engineered (GE) organisms, including microorganisms, into the environment.  Exploratory research that relates specifically to federal regulatory needs is preferred. USDA anticipates approximately $3.5 million in funding will be available for 2018 grants.  Applicants must submit a letter of intent by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on December 21, 2017.  Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on February 22, 2018.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On November 7, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a notice in the Federal Register announcing that it was withdrawing its proposed rule that would have revised the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms.  The proposed rule, which was issued on January 19, 2017, aimed to “update the regulations in response to advances in genetic engineering and understanding of the plant pest and noxious weed risk posed by [GE] organisms, thereby reducing burden for regulated entities whose organisms pose no plant pest or noxious weed risks.”  After reviewing public comments on the proposed rule, USDA decided to re-engage with stakeholders and explore alternative policy approaches.  More specific comments from USDA and the reasons supporting its decision are set forth in the notice.
 
While it appears that some in industry may welcome the withdrawal, most would agree that all stakeholders should work collaboratively and quickly to develop a new framework to speed the process to market, and to ensure the regulatory landscape is more efficient and clearer than it currently is.  USDA and pertinent others should immediately begin another process to enable the regrouping to begin.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On November 7, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a notice in the Federal Register (82 Fed. Reg. 51582) stating that it was withdrawing its January 19, 2017, proposed rule on the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms to “update the regulations in response to advances in genetic engineering and understanding of the plant pest and noxious weed risk posed by [GE] organisms, thereby reducing burden for regulated entities whose organisms pose no plant pest or noxious weed risks” (82 Fed. Reg. 7008).  Citing comments on the proposed rule critical of the proposed revisions, USDA stated it is committed to “explor[ing] a full range of policy alternatives” instead, and that it will “re-engage with stakeholders to determine the most effective, science-based approach for regulating the products of modern biotechnology while protecting plant health.”  More specific comments from USDA and the reasons supporting its decision are set forth in the notice.

While it appears that some in industry may welcome the withdrawal, most would agree that all stakeholders should work collaboratively and quickly to develop a new framework to speed the process to market, and to ensure the regulatory landscape is more efficient and clearer than it currently is.  USDA and pertinent others should immediately begin another process to enable the regrouping to begin. 


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 17, 2017, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Congressman Neal Dunn, M.D. (R-FL), and 77 additional House members sent a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to urge the agencies to work together to promote innovative new technologies aimed at increasing crop yields and reducing the cost of production.  According to Congressman Panetta, the letter was prepared in response to duplicative or inconsistent regulatory proposals regarding biotechnology.  In the letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and Administrator Scott Pruitt, the members highlighted several recent biotechnology regulatory efforts that warrant the Administration’s attention, as well as the importance of a consistent, science-based, risk-proportionate regulatory system.  Members concluded by urging the agencies to cooperate in creating consistent regulatory proposals that foster innovation; to increase engagement with trading partners to promote a harmonized, science-based international regulatory system for agricultural products; and to consider ways to engage with the public to discuss the continued advancement of biotechnology in agriculture.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On October 17, 2017, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the recipients of 17 grants totaling $7.3 million for projects focused on the development of next generation agricultural technologies and systems to meet the growing demand for food, fuel, and fiber.  Funding is provided by NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), as authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.  Recipients include:

  • Auburn University, which received $481,539 to develop and optimize the hydrothermal liquefaction of lignin (HTL) chemical stream and to determine the best way to modify epoxy-based resins with the lignin derived material;
  • University of Georgia, which received $472,965 to develop new markets, products, and processes using activated carbon monolith catalysts produced from wood and to generate value added products from platform chemicals derived from agricultural and forest resources;
  • Iowa State University, which received $482,905 to further develop the engineering of the membrane of microbial cell factories to improve production of biobased fuels and chemicals;
  • Ohio State University, which received $482,448 to improve the efficiency, costs, and emissions of the feedstock supply system for cellulosic biorefineries by conjointly supplying corn grain and stover; and
  • University of North Texas, which received $482,905 to improve the efficiency of the pyrolysis production of biomass and product quality for biofuel and activated carbon from self-activation process.

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On September 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded six grants totaling nearly $21.1 million to support the development of new jet fuel, biobased products, and biomaterials from renewable sources.  The funding is provided through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts (SBEBP) Challenge Area.  Grant recipients include:

  • University of Arizona, which received $7,026,000 for the cultivation of two desert-dwelling feedstocks, specifically guayule and guar, that can provide biomass year round for biofuel production;
  • University of Florida, which received $7,026,000 for the development of a resilient Brassica carinata-based biofuel and bioproduct supply chain in the Southeast;
  • University of Missouri, Rolla, which received $32,000 to help develop a viable market for guayule resin through laboratory and field research, and expand the research and educational capacity of the asphalt laboratory at the Missouri University of Science and Technology;
  • North Carolina State University, which received $2,750,000 to prepare a diverse group of college students and high school teachers with the knowledge and interdisciplinary tools necessary to advance the future of America's bioenergy, bioproducts, and the bioeconomy;
  • The Ohio State University, which received $2,750,000 to create a national network of universities, industry, and government agencies that derive sufficient benefits to be sustainable long-term; and
  • Oklahoma State University, which received $1,500,000 to educate the next generation of engineers and scientists in renewable resource utilization.

 
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