On September 25, 2015, EPA published Recommendations for Specifications, Environmental Performance Standards, and Ecolabels for Federal Procurement. The notice describes EPA's recommendations for federal agencies that are purchasing environmentally-friendly products. Section 3(i) of Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, directs federal agencies to adhere to certain environmental performance and sustainability standards when practicable. The new EPA recommendations list acceptable environmentally sustainable product brands and service providers that require a procurement preference, including EPA's voluntary program Energy Star®, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Certified Biobased label BioPreferred®, and EPA designated recycled content products, among others.
On June 17, 2015, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the release of a report to congress that builds on the Why Biobased? report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2014. The new report, An Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry, shows that in 2013, the U.S. biobased industry added $369 billion dollars and four million jobs to the economy. The biobased products industry is comprised of many significant contributors to the U.S. economy including biorefining, biobased chemicals, bioplastics, enzymes, agriculture, forestry, and more. Due to the many sectors impacted by the biobased economy, every single job directly supporting the biobased product industry generates an additional 1.64 indirect jobs in the rest of the economy. In 2013, there were 1.5 million jobs created that directly supported the biobased industry, but those 1.5 million jobs also created 1.1 million indirect jobs in related industries and 1.4 million jobs due to increased economic activity, resulting in a net gain of four million jobs.
Secretary Vilsack also announced the addition of more forest products to the BioPreferred® program. Previously, mature market products (products with significant market share before 1972) were excluded from the program, forcing wood products and other mature market products to become more innovative. Now, any forest products that contain enough biobased content will qualify as a biobased product regardless of the market status for that product. Changes are also occurring for the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program, formerly the Biorefinery Assistance Program, that will assist in the development of advanced technologies. The program provides loan guarantees under the Farm Bill of up to $250 million to construct and retrofit commercial scale biobased product manufacturing facilities or biorefineries. The program is intended to promote advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased product manufacturing. The new rule allows biorefineries to produce more renewable chemicals and biobased products instead of primarily advanced biofuels.
On June 15, 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued final amendments to the regulations concerning the Voluntary Labeling Program for Biobased Products. The rule is intended to incorporate statutory amendments to Section 9002 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act signed into law on February 2, 2014. Among other changes, USDA has deleted the definitions of "BioPreferred product," "Designated item," and "Mature market products" and revised the definition of "Biobased product" to be:
(1) A product determined by USDA to be a commercial or industrial product (other than food or feed) that is: (i) Composed, in whole or in significant part, of biological products, including renewable domestic agricultural materials and forestry materials; or (ii) An intermediate ingredient or feedstock. (2) The term ''biobased product'' includes, with respect to forestry materials, 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.
Other changes included the addition or revision of definitions for "Certification mark artwork," "Designated product category," "Forest product," "Intermediate ingredient or feedstock," "Qualified biobased product," and "Renewable chemical." The rule is effective on July 15, 2015.
On March 19, 2015, the White House published an Executive Order
signed by President Obama that would further a preference for U.S. Department
of Agriculture (USDA) BioPreferred products. Planning
for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade sets new greenhouse
gas (GHG) emission targets for federal agencies to reach by 2025 and increases
renewable energy use and building efficiency, while reducing fleet emissions in
the federal government. The new targets would reduce total GHG emissions by 26
million metric tons, and will be met in part by increasing the share of
electricity from renewable sources that the federal government uses from 9
percent to 30 percent by 2025.
The ambitious GHG emission targets will also be achieved by increasing energy
efficiency in federal buildings by designing new buildings in environmentally
conscious ways and retrofitting existing government buildings to improve energy
conservation, efficiency, and management. The Executive Order also calls for
federal agencies to have a purchase preference for products designated as
recycled content by EPA, products designated BioPreferred and biobased by USDA,
and products designated to be energy and water efficient by EPA.
On October 27, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed to amend the regulations for the Voluntary Labeling Program for Biobased Products under USDA's BioPreferred Program. As explained in the Federal Register notice, the proposed amendments are needed to address certain legislative requirements in the 2014 Farm Bill that cannot be implemented without further guidance. Specifically, the proposed amendments allow for USDA promotion of biobased products regardless of date of entry into the marketplace, which overrides previous provisions that excluded mature market products. The proposal includes USDA promotion of biobased products, including forest products that incorporate "innovative approaches" per the direction of Congress. The proposal also revises the definition of "biobased product" to include forest products that meet biobased content requirements, regardless of the product's market share, age, or whether it is new.
The major provisions of the proposed rule include:
* Changes to Definitions: USDA proposes to delete definitions of "BioPreferred Product," "Designated Item," and "Mature Market Products." USDA proposes to revise the definitions of "Biobased Product," "Certification Mark Artwork," and "Intermediate Ingredient or Feedstock," and to add new definitions for "Designated Product Category," "Forest Product," "Qualified Biobased Product," and "Renewable Chemical."
* Changes to "Criteria for Product Eligibility to Use the Certification Mark": USDA proposes to describe the biobased content criteria for complex assemblies and to update the voluntary labeling program rules to include these products. USDA also proposes to present the criteria for determining whether a product is using "innovative approaches."
* Changes to "Initial Approval Process": USDA proposes to address situations in which a manufacturer seeks certification for a product that is similar in biobased ingredients and contact to a previously certified product. The proposal also clarifies that manufacturers of certified products are subject to periodic auditing and potential suspension or revocation of certification if violations are found. USDA also proposes to revoke a certification if an error is discovered during the USDA approval process.
* Changes to "Oversight and Monitoring": USDA proposes specific auditing efforts that will be used for the voluntary labeling program. USDA plans to audit the program on an ongoing basis with specific audit activities scheduled every other calendar year.
The proposed rule is open for comment for 60 days, with a comment deadline of December 26, 2014. More information is available in the USDA press release on the voluntary labeling program proposal.
On October 7, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released "Why Biobased?," a report that comprehensively synthesizes findings from the existing government, academia, and non-governmental organizations on bioeconomy opportunities. The report is a precursor for another study to be issued in the near future by the USDA BioPreferred program on the economic impacts of the biobased products industry.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated "[t]his new report presents the opportunities U.S. agriculture and forests have in the emerging bioeconomy. The recent inclusion of mature market products into the BioPreferred program strengthens our commitment to the U.S. biobased economy and brings together two of the most important economic engines for rural America: agriculture and manufacturing."
More information can be found in the USDA press release. The "Why Biobased?" report can be downloaded online.
On August 1, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a final rule on "Guidelines for Designating Biobased Products for Federal Procurement." A copy of the rule is available online. The rule is effective on September 2, 2014.
Under the rule, wood products will become eligible under USDA's BioPreferred Program, which was created under the 2002 Farm Bill. The rule removes language that excluded mature markets from the program. This change will open up the program to the pulp and paper industry. In a public statement, the President and CEO of the American Forest and Paper Association called the rule a "step in the right direction."
USDA is expected to issue guidance next month on how wood products may be eligible under the BioPreferred Program.
On Friday, May 23, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its semi-annual regulatory agenda (Agenda) indicating its intended actions and priorities for the remainder of the year. A copy of USDA's Agenda is available online.
According to the Agenda, USDA intends to issue its final rule addressing how its BioPreferred® Program will designate complex products and intermediate materials and feedstocks in July 2014. USDA published its proposed rule on this matter in the Federal Register on May 1, 2012, and accepted public comment until July 2, 2012. A copy of the proposed rule is available online.
On April 11, 2014, Barnhardt Manufacturing Company (Barnhardt) announced that its HyDri™ Cotton product has earned a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Biobased Product label under the Department's BioPreferred Program. Barnhardt's press release on the announcement is available online. USDA's description of the meaning of a USDA Certified Biobased Product label is available online.
On March 13, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) held a meeting to share information with stakeholders about the 2014 Farm Bill implementation process related to Energy and the Bioeconomy. A copy of the USDA press release is available online.
On March 14, 2014, USDA will hold a listening session on implementation of the Farm Bill's Biobased Markets, or BioPreferred Program. To register for the webinar, please visit online.