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.