By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On February 1, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) announced in the Federal Register that it has withdrawn support for the Farm-to-Fleet Biofuel Production Incentive (BPI) program. CCC determined that, due to limited available funds, the BPI program is no longer a priority. USDA and the U.S. Department of Navy (Navy) launched the Farm-to-Fleet program in 2013 to provide incentive funds to companies refining biofuel in the United States from certain domestically grown feedstocks converted to drop-in biofuel for delivery to the Navy. As reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy (BRAG®) blog post, USDA Issues A Notice of Available Funds For The Farm-To-Fleet Biofuel Production Incentive, in December 2016, CCC announced the availability of up to $50 million in funding to support the BPI payments through 2018. The current notice states that CCC is cancelling funding for BPI payments to companies for deliveries not yet solicited or procured, and withdrawing support for biofuel blends solicited by the Navy. BPI payments required under the existing commitments will continue to be made.
On January 24, 2017, the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) sent a letter to President Donald Trump to express its commitment to working with Trump and his administration and to outline its top priorities, including the continuation of EPA’s Safer Choice Program. In the letter, CSPA states that companies have made significant financial and employee investments to develop products that qualify for the Safer Choice logo and to market the products as Safer Choice products. CSPA requested that Trump support the voluntary program, arguing that elimination of it would negate the innovation that resulted from the costly efforts. In addition to continuing the program, the letter suggests that EPA expand the Safer Choice Program to include antimicrobial products that meet the criteria as long as they are not specifically prohibited from using the logo under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
On July 25, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) published a notice in the Federal Register soliciting applications for Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (the Program) funding. The Program provides guaranteed loans for projects developing, constructing, or retrofitting commercial scale biorefineries and biobased product manufacturing facilities. The developments must use eligible technology, including new commercial scale processing and manufacturing equipment. There are two application cycles for this notice, with the first application cycle closing on October 3, 2016, at 4:30 pm (EDT), and the second cycle closing on April 3, 2017, at 4:30 pm (EDT).
On May 27, 2016, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced an investment of $8.8 million to increase production of advanced biofuels in 39 states. The USDA Advanced Biofuel Payment Program is providing the funding with payments being allocated based on the amount of advanced biofuels produced from non-corn kernel starch renewable biomass. Eligible feedstocks include crop residue, food waste, yard waste, vegetable oil, and animal fat. A full list of the 108 programs receiving payments is available online, with an average payment of $81,789. Applications are accepted annually for the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program with the next round of applications due October 31, 2016.
On April 22, 2016, EPA published Amendments Related to: Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards as a final rule in the Federal Register. This final action amends the RFS Quality Assurance Program (QAP) rule to exempt downstream end users of renewable fuels from product transfer document (PTD) requirements. EPA originally added the PTD requirements to the QAP rule, requiring parties taking ownership of renewable fuel to use the fuel for transportation -- parties would incur a renewable volume obligation if they exported the fuel. This rule was not intended to apply to downstream end users, but language was accidentally added in an amendment that transferred the PTD requirements along with the custody of renewable fuels to end users. The amendment clarifies this language to assert that there are end user exemptions to PTD requirements under the RFS program. The rule will go into effect on June 21, 2016.
On March 28, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced the 2016 update of the BETO Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP). The MYPP helps BETO coordinate its activities and details BETO's activities in the coming years. The latest MYPP includes three major changes:
- A revised vision statement, "Developing and demonstrating transformative and revolutionary bioenergy technologies for a sustainable nation," to emphasize the role of BETO in the bioeconomy.
- The renaming of the "Algal Feedstocks Research and Development" program area to "Advanced Algal Systems Research and Development," reflecting a stronger focus on the algal biofuels' supply chain and new technical targets for the Algae Farm Design Case.
- An updated Demonstration and Market Transformation section with new milestones for the integrated biorefinery strategy.
USDA has amended the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances maintained by the National Organic Program (NOC) to allow biodegradable biobased mulch film to be used in organic production with restrictive annotations. To be used in organic production, the mulch must be produced in accordance with NOC's rules for organic production. This rule becomes effective on October 30, 2014. More information about the amendment is available online.
On September 29, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued an initial notice announcing the timeframes to submit applications for participation in the Advanced Biofuels Payment Program. Applications for participation in fiscal year 2015 will be accepted between October 1, 2014, and October 31, 2014. The Federal Register notice is available online.
This week, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (GCRP), a collaboration of 13 federal agencies and myriad academia, issued its third National Climate Assessment. The 841 page report and a summary of its highlights are available online.
This report is significant because compared to previous reports it more definitively attributes human activity as the cause of increased climate change, which is causing more severe weather. The report asserts that climate change is here now and will have more and more devastating impacts throughout the country. It is not a future event. Additionally, it more strongly links climate change to severe weather.
The Administration reportedly is hopeful that the report will help motivate action on climate change. It may be working to some extent as two prominent Republicans -- former Utah Governor and Presidential Candidate John Huntsman, and Lee Thomas, an EPA Administrator under the Regan Administration -- authored op-eds published on May 7, 2014, urging Republicans to accept climate change and offer leadership on the issue.
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.