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 March 28, 2018, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Sonny Perdue issued a statement providing clarification on USDA’s oversight of plants produced through innovative new breeding techniques that include techniques called genome editing.  The announcement states that under its biotechnology regulations, USDA “does not regulate or have any plans to regulate plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding techniques as long as they are not plant pests or developed using plant pests,” which “includes a set of new techniques that are increasingly being used by plant breeders to produce new plant varieties that are indistinguishable from those developed through traditional breeding methods” and “[t]he newest of these methods, such as genome editing, expand traditional plant breeding tools because they can introduce new plant traits more quickly and precisely, potentially saving years or even decades in bringing needed new varieties to farmers.”   Secretary Perdue stated that using this science, “farmers can continue to meet consumer expectations for healthful, affordable food produced in a manner that consumes fewer natural resources.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its report on the economic impact of the biobased economy.  The report, titled “Indicators of the U.S. Biobased Economy,” reviews data from 2011 and 2016 to analyze trends in the agricultural, bioenergy, renewable chemicals, and policy sectors.  According to the analysis, the renewable chemicals and biobased products sector contributed 4.22 million jobs and an economic value of $393 billion to the U.S. economy in 2014.  Between 2014 and 2016, the number of products certified under the UDSA Biopreferred® program increased from 1,800 to 2,900.  The analysis was commissioned by the USDA Office of the Chief Economist and prepared jointly by the Energy and Natural Resource Research Cluster at East Carolina University and the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC) at North Carolina State University.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 20, 2018, BioLogiQ, Inc. announced that its NuPlastiQ® GP biopolymer received certification under the USDA BioPreferred program.  NuPlastiQ is a 100 percent renewably-resourced, plant-based resin that is blended with traditional plastics to reduce fossil-based plastic use and greenhouse gas emissions.  The thermoplastic resin is produced using BioLogiQ’s proprietary process for converting high crystalline starch into a low crystalline (mostly amorphous) plastic.  The starch is derived from potato waste following processing to produce potato chips and French fries. 
 
The BioPreferred program is a USDA initiative to increase the purchase and use of biobased products through mandatory purchasing requirements for federal agencies and contractors, and voluntary product certification and labeling.  The USDA Certified Biobased Product label is designed to help consumers identify biobased products containing a verified amount of renewable biological ingredients.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 12, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued in the Federal Register a notice announcing the submission of an information collection request (ICR) on the guidelines for designating biobased products for federal procurement to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Pursuant to Section 9002 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (FSRIA) of 2002, as amended by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008, and the Agricultural Act of 2014, federal agencies are required to purchase biobased products under the preferred procurement program.  Product categories for preferred procurement are established by rulemaking based on the availability of biobased products, the economic and technological feasibility of using such products, and the costs of using such products.  Additionally, federal agencies are provided with information on the availability, price, performance, and environmental and public health benefits of such product categories, and, where appropriate, the recommended level of biobased material to be contained in the procured product.  Such information is gathered under the ICR from biobased product manufacturers and vendors by the Office of Procurement and Property Management (OPPM) and its contractors.  USDA is seeking comments on:

  • Whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of USDA, including whether the information will have practical utility;
  • The accuracy of USDA’s estimate of burden, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used;
  • Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
  • Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.
Tags: USDA, OMB, Comments

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 13, 2018, the USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service issued in the Federal Register a notice of solicitation of applications for the  Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) for fiscal year (FY) 2018.  The solicitation is being issued prior to the passage of a final appropriations act to allow time for the submission and review of applications within the current FY.  Information on the amount of funding received in any continuing resolution or the final appropriations act will be published on the Rural Business-Cooperative Service website.  The solicitation applies to two types of REAP funding assistance.  The Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Assistance provides grants and guaranteed loans to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems, such as renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), wind, solar, small hydro-electric, ocean, geothermal, or hydrogen derived from these renewable resources.  The Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grants supports the establishment of a program designed to assist agricultural producers and rural small businesses with evaluating the energy efficiency and the potential to incorporate renewable energy technologies into their operations.
 
To be considered for funding in FY 2018, submissions must be received as outlined below:
 

Application

 
Application window
opening dates
Application window closing dates
Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Grants ($20,000 or less grant only request or a combination grant and guaranteed loan where the grant request is $20,000 or less competing for up to approximately 50 percent of the set aside funds) April 1, 2017






 
October 31, 2017






 
Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Grants ($20,000 or less grant only request or a combination grant and guaranteed loan where the grant request is $20,000 or less competing for the remaining set aside funds) November 1, 2017





 
April 30, 2018





 
Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Grants (Unrestricted grants, including combination grant and guaranteed loan where the grant request is greater than $20,000,) April 1, 2017




 
April 30, 2018




 
Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Guaranteed Loans Continuous application cycle
 
Continuous application cycle
 
Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grants February 1, 2017

 
January 31, 2018

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Given that applications are accepted on an ongoing basis, applications received after the specified deadlines will be considered with other applications received in the next application window.
Tags: USDA, REAP

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 27, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) published its 2017 Annual Report:  User Inspired Science Transforming Lives.  The report provides an overview and examples of the many NIFA-funded research, extension, and education outcomes conducted by a broad range of partners, including academic and science organizations; small business and industry; agencies from all levels of government; and non-governmental organizations.  According to the report, NIFA relies on stakeholder input as a key driver in determining NIFA’s research, education, and extension priorities to ensure that the science that begins in the lab reaches the people who need it.  NIFA’s Bioeconomy, bioenergy, bioproducts science emphasis area supports the expansion of regional production systems for biofuels and bio-based products to foster rural economic development, mitigate the impacts of a changing climate, reduce greenhouse gasses, improve wildlife and pollinator habitat, and improve water quality and food and energy security.  In 2017, NIFA engaged in 27 bioeconomy, bioenergy, bioproducts competitive projects, which accounted for two percent of NIFA’s total competitive project funding.

Tags: USDA, NIFA

 

 

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.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On January 19, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the availability of up to $6 million in funding to support research in plant feedstock genomics for bioenergy.  Support is provided in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) through the Plant Feedstock Genomics for Bioenergy program, which aims to improve the use of biomass and plant feedstocks for the production of fuels or renewable chemical feedstocks.  Research projects should focus on overcoming biological barriers to the low-cost, high-quality, scalable, and sustainable production of dedicated bioenergy biomass feedstocks using the tools of genetics and genomics.  Eligible applicants, including state agricultural experiment stations, colleges and universities, university research foundations, individuals, non-profit organizations, and for-profit organizations, are encouraged to submit proposals.  Applications are due April 20, 2018.  More information on the funding opportunity is available on the NIFA website.


 

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.

 
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