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 Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 8, 2020, Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made $22 million available in grants to increase sales of ethanol and biodiesel. The funds are coming out of the $100 million in grants available through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) and have been disbursed to 14 states. USDA predicts that the investments will increase ethanol demand by approximately 150 million gallons annually.

HBIIP aims to assist biodiesel distribution facilities and transportation fueling facilities with the conversion to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends by sharing costs related to installing fuel pumps and related equipment and infrastructure. Eligible grant applicants are vehicle fueling facilities, including, but not limited to:

  • Local fueling stations and locations;
  • Vehicle fueling facilities;
  • Hypermarket fueling stations;
  • Convenience stores;
  • Fuel terminal operations;
  • Fleet facilities;
  • Midstream partners; and
  • Distribution facilities.

Higher fuel blends mean fuels that contain ethanol over ten percent by volume and/or fuels containing biodiesel blends higher than five percent by volume. More information on USDA’s HBIIP can be found here.

Tags: USDA, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business-Cooperative Service announced that it is soliciting applications for funds available under the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (the Program) to provide guaranteed loans to fund the construction, development, and retrofitting of commercial-scale biorefineries and of biobased product manufacturing facilities. Biorefineries applying must use eligible technology, and biobased product manufacturing facilities must use technologically new commercial-scale processing and manufacturing equipment to convert renewable chemicals and other biobased outputs of biorefineries into end-user products on a commercial scale.

USDA will accept applications during two separate cycles, which have application closing dates of 4:30 p.m. (EDT) October 1, 2020, and 4:30 p.m. (EDT) April 1, 2021. Applications and forms can be obtained from:

  • USDA, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, Program Processing Division, Attention: Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Room 5801-S, Washington, DC 20250-3225.

Of particular interest to USDA are applications that support recommendations made in the Rural Prosperity Task Force report to help improve life in rural America. Applicants are encouraged by USDA to provide measurable results in rural communities’ assistance to build sustainable and robust economies through: strategic investments in infrastructure, partnerships, and innovation. Key strategies outlined by USDA include:

  • Achieving e-connectivity for rural America;
  • Developing the rural economy;
  • Harnessing technological innovation;
  • Improving quality of life; and
  • Supporting a rural workforce.

 

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 21, 2020, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced a bill directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary to establish a renewable feedstock reimbursement program. Aiming to support biofuel producers that have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, this bill can be cited as the Renewable Fuel Feedstock Reimbursement Act of 2020. Under the reimbursement program, biofuel producers will be reimbursed for their feedstock purchases from January 1, 2020, through March 31, 2020, through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). Eligible parties will consist of those that produce renewable fuel used as transportation fuel and eligible feedstocks mean renewable biomass intended for production of the aforementioned renewable fuel. Furthermore, to be eligible to receive reimbursements, eligible entities must enter into an agreement with the USDA Secretary.

The two U.S. Senators initially introduced this idea in April 2020 as an amendment to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stabilization (CARES) Act, which assists the biofuels industry sector. Assistance, however, was not included in the CARES Act package. Senators Klobuchar and Grassley, with industry support, now hope that this second attempt in support of the biofuels industry follows through.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 18, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued the much-anticipated final Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient (SECURE) rule. 85 Fed. Reg. 29790. The rule is intended to update and modernize USDA’s biotechnology regulations under the Plant Protection Act. The final rule amends the regulations regarding the movement (importation, interstate movement, and environmental release) of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms in response to advances in genetic engineering and APHIS’s understanding of the plant pest risk posed by GE organisms, thereby reducing the regulatory burden for developers of organisms that are unlikely to pose plant pest risks. For more information, please read the full memorandum here.

Tags: USDA, APHIS, SECURE, GE

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On April 17, 2020, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary, Sonny Perdue, announced $19 billion to farmers and ranchers as part of its COVID-19 relief program. Aimed at providing critical support in maintaining the integrity of the U.S. food supply chain and ensuring that every American has access to the food needed, the funds will be used not only to directly support farmers and ranchers, but also for USDA purchase and distribution. The latter goal means that USDA will partner with regional and local distributors affected by the closure of businesses to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat. The distributors will then provide boxes of fresh food supplied to food banks and other non-profits serving Americans in need. The one element not mentioned in the use of the relief funds, however, was assistance for biofuel producers who are bearing the impact of decrease in consumption.

In early April, 15 U.S. Senators had submitted a bipartisan letter to Secretary Perdue, requesting the use of its authority to assist the biofuels industry’s economic circumstances brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Highlighting the negative impacts of the pandemic on farmers and producers who are suffering from the impact of the decrease in consumption, the letter asked that USDA consider the allocation of additional funds to assist the biofuels industry sector. Assistance would be helpful in the format of reimbursements for feedstocks and additional relief funds to the Higher-Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program to drive future biofuel demand. At the time, the 15 signatories of the letter seemed hopeful of receiving the aid requested and much needed. It seems as though USDA’s focus, however, is not geared toward addressing the biofuel industry’s request. According to an article, Secretary Perdue addressed this issue by stating that it is not within his authority to extend the aid to energy production and that USDA does not have a fundamental way to help the biofuels sector.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On April 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a report titled “Agricultural Biotechnology Annual,” which argues that under any scenario, the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) separation from the EU (Brexit) is unlikely to change policy or trade in genetically engineered (GE) industries. According to the report prepared by USDA’s Jennifer Wilson, given the fact that the EU is the U.K.’s trading partner and has been for many years, the U.K. will retain much of the EU’s food laws in the short to medium term. Although Brexit could potentially change the agricultural biotechnology policy arena, it is not clear yet whether the U.K. will deviate from the European Court of Justice ruling on New Plant Breeding Techniques. Overall, according to Wilson’s summary, it seems that senior U.K. politicians favor simple genome editing techniques. In addition, it would be unlikely that large multinational seed technology companies would invest in commercialization of a GE crop that could only be marketed in the U.K., which is part of the reason that the current landscape for the cultivation and importation of GE products is not expected to change.

Tags: USDA, GE, Brexit

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On April 6, 2020, 15 United States Senators submitted a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary, Sonny Perdue, requesting the use of its authority to assist the biofuels industry’s economic circumstances brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Highlighting the negative impacts of the pandemic on farmers and producers who will bear the impact of the decrease in consumption, in the letter, the Senators have also taken the opportunity to criticize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to implement the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Specifically, the letter states that EPA has failed “to implement the RFS in accordance with the law, including its issuance of illegal small refinery waivers and enforcement of ethanol blending requirements.” The lack of proper implementation of RFS combined with the COVID-19 crisis, according to the Senators, further negatively impact the rural communities and employment rates in their respective home states.

Given these circumstances, the 15 signatories of the letter ask that USDA considers the allocation of additional funds provided to the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stabilization (CARES) Act to assist the biofuels industry sector. Assistance would be helpful in the format of reimbursements for feedstocks and additional CCC funds to the Higher-Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program to drive future biofuel demand. Although, Secretary Purdue has not yet responded to the aforementioned request, the biofuels industry is hopeful.


 

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On March 4, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in collaboration with EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), launched a new initiative called “Feed Your Mind” to help consumers better understand genetically engineered (GE) foods. Consisting of science-based information, the initiative’s features include a wide range of resources designed to teach consumers, health care professionals, and students about what a genetically modified organism (GMO) is, how GMOs are created and grown, the types of crops that can be GE, and to address questions about the health and safety of GMOs. “Feed Your Mind” also includes an explanation of how GMOs are regulated in the United States. Materials available through the initiative include new web content, videos, graphics, fact sheets, and stories, which include historical information on GMOs in agriculture. The initiative is launching in phases, and FDA expects that more resources will become available later in 2020 and 2021, including professional learning series for dietitians and a supplemental science curriculum for high schools. According to the three agencies, the materials available are based on extensive formative research after input from stakeholders and experts in biotechnology, education, and communications.

Tags: FDA, USDA, GE

 
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