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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

According to an item in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Unified Agenda, which was published on June 21, 2022, USDA intended to publish in June 2022 a proposed rule that would codify BioPreferred Program guidance. According to the item, USDA expects this action to reduce burden on both it and the applicants by reducing requirements, clarifying requirements, streamlining the application and certification process, and increasing efficiencies in program delivery. The item states that codification for all Program guidance “will ensure consistency in how programs are administered.” Improvements will also “facilitate the sales of the business using the labeling program.”
 
The BioPreferred Program is intended to spur economic development, create new jobs, and provide new markets for farm commodities. The two major parts of the Program are:

  • Mandatory purchasing requirements for federal agencies and their contractors; and
     
  • A voluntary labeling initiative for biobased products.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced recently a new program that directs USDA to partner with at least one qualified institution to support the scale-up of sustainable bioproduct manufacturing. Up to $5 million is available for each of the fiscal years (FY) 2022 and 2023. NIFA will work in collaboration with USDA Rural Development’s BioPreferred program to seek research proposals that explore the benefits of bioproducts in relation to:

  • “Cost savings relative to other commonly used alternative materials;
  • Greenhouse gas emission reductions and other environmental benefits relative to their commonly used alternative materials;
  • Lifecycle and longevity-extending characteristics relative to other commonly used alternative materials;
  • Lifecycle and longevity-reducing characteristics relative to other commonly used alternative materials;
  • Landfill quantity and waste management cost reductions;
  • Product development and production scale-up; and
  • Any other benefits that the Secretary determines to be appropriate.”

Information on how to apply for the Bioproduct Pilot Program is available here, and NIFA will hold a webinar on July 14, 2022, at 3:00 p.m. (EDT) to discuss the program and answer questions. Registration for the webinar is required.


 

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

On April 12, 2022, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary, announced steps that USDA is taking to implement President Biden’s plan to enable energy independence by boosting homegrown biofuels. President Biden’s plan aims to reduce energy prices and tackle the rising consumer prices caused by “Putin’s Price Hike.” As part of USDA’s measures to help the Biden Administration to achieve its goals, USDA is making the following investments:

  • $5.6 million in funding for seven states to build infrastructure for renewable fuels through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program;
     
  • $700 million for biofuels producers through USDA’s new Biofuel Producer Program;
     
  • $100 million for biofuels infrastructure grants; and
     
  • Billions of dollars to support a new market in sustainable aviation fuels by partnering with the federal government to advance the use of cleaner and more sustainable fuels in the United States.

According to USDA, these investments will assist in the development, transportation, and distribution of low-carbon fuels, more affordable and cleaner fuels for consumers, and better market access for producers.


 

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

On February 22, 2022, U.S. Senator and Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and U.S. Senator and Committee member, Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, requesting improvements to the United States’ biobased economy. Senators Stabenow and Klobuchar’s request focuses particularly on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) BioPreferred® Program (Program), urging that USDA leverage its long-standing expertise in biobased products to strengthen the Program.

Managed by USDA, the Program aims to increase the purchase and use of biobased products, spur economic development, create new jobs, and provide new markets for farm commodities. The Program has two major parts:

  • Mandatory purchasing requirements for federal agencies and their contractors; and
  • A voluntary labeling initiative for biobased products.

According to Senators Stabenow and Klobuchar, federal procurement for BioPreferred® products has failed to increase, despite significant product innovations in recent years. The two U.S. Senators encourage the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and USDA to educate procurement officers on the benefits of BioPreferred® products and routinely to measure progress of the Program. They also request that Secretary Vilsack and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce complete swiftly creation of North American Product Classification System (NAPCS) codes, correlating them to North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes to capture the multiple industries into which each product is sold.
 


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On December 7, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is making $800 million available to support biofuel producers and improve infrastructure affected negatively by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds will become available through USDA’s new Biofuel Producer Program authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). USDA hopes that $100 million of the total amount available will increase significantly the sales and use of higher bioethanol and biodiesel blends through the expansion of the infrastructure for renewable fuels derived from U.S. agricultural products. Secretary Vilsack stated that [‌u]nder the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA is providing direct relief to the people of rural America who are still reeling from the economic impacts of the pandemic.” He also reported that USDA is targeting resources and investments to improve the strength and resiliency of America’s sustainable fuel markets.

Tags: USDA, Biofuel

 

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

 
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