The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a final rule eliminating the restrictions on including mature market wood products and other materials in the BioPreferred program. The action implements changes included in the 2014 Farm Bill.
"Every day, companies across the nation are expanding markets for agriculture and growing job opportunities in rural America," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The inclusion of innovative wood products furthers our commitment to strengthening the biobased economy and ensures that the Federal government uses home American grown products whenever possible."
The final rule establishes a procedure to designate "intermediate ingredients" so products made from them can be included in the "preferred" Federal procurement process. That rule establishes procedures for designating "complex assemblies" that contain one or more components made from biobased ingredients.
The 2014 Farm Bill required the BioPreferred program to "promote biobased products, including forest products, that apply an innovative approach to growing, harvesting, sourcing, procuring, processing, manufacturing, or application of biobased products regardless of the date of entry into the marketplace." Products that were previously considered to be "mature market" products (those that had a significant market share prior to 1972), and were previously ineligible for the BioPreferred program, will now be included in the program if manufacturers demonstrate that they apply an "innovative approach" in any part of the life cycle of their product. With the final rule, USDA is deleting the text previously found in the Guidelines that excluded products that were considered to be mature market products. Specifically, USDA has removed the text previously found in paragraph (c)(2) of the Guidelines.
The final rule, which was initially proposed in 2012, also revises the Biobased Products Federal Procurement Guidelines to incorporate changes that were made in the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills.
USDA is proceeding with a separate rulemaking process to address the specific provisions of the Agricultural Act of 2014 regarding innovative approaches. On August 1, the Department conducted a meeting in Washington to obtain input and is also soliciting comments in writing. Working in conjunction with the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, as required by the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA is developing a process to evaluate the eligibility of biobased products for the BioPreferred program based on the use of innovative approaches.
The USDA BioPreferred program works to increase the purchase and use of designated biobased products through a preferred procurement initiative for Federal agencies. Designated products may also carry the voluntary consumer label.
The voluntary label part of the program is designed to promote broad-scale marketing of biobased products to consumers. As of July 2014, USDA has certified 1,800 biobased products in more than 187 product categories for the label. Certified and designated products include construction, janitorial, and grounds keeping products purchased by Federal agencies, to personal care and packaging products used by consumers every day.
Today's announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.