Agricultural, environmental, national security and consumer leaders created the new Alliance for a Biobased Economy coalition to increase the use of home-grown biobased products in federal government purchasing.
Biobased products include a broad range of items made from farm-based materials, including industrial oils and lubricants, carpet, ceiling tiles, cups and bowls for eating and drinking, printing ink, and building insulation. Use of these and other biobased products increases demand for agricultural materials while displacing large amounts of foreign oil needed to produce petroleum products.
The coalition formed includes a diverse array of groups such as the National Corn Growers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Consumers Federation of America, National Farmers Union, Natural Resources Defense Council, Set America Free Coalition and many more. Its goal is to help facilitate increased purchasing of biobased products by the federal government and encourage greater use of biobased products in general.
"I'm thrilled to have widespread support to make increased purchase of biobased items a reality," says Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who co-authored the biobased provisions of the 2002 farm bill. "This broad coalition shows the tangible and far reaching benefits biobased products will have for the United States. As biobased products gain momentum, we'll ensure these benefits become a reality for millions of farmers, consumers, and citizens around the country,"
"As the United States moves to a renewable economy, biobased products will increasingly replace conventional products derived from petroleum," says Gerald Tumbleson, NCGA president. "All Americans benefit from increased use of non-toxic bioproducts; they are better for the environment, they reduce the need for foreign oil, and the economy benefits through job development and products made from home-grown crops."
In March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued its final rule designating the first six items to which federal agencies must give special consideration when making purchases. Federal agencies are required, with some exceptions, to purchase these biobased products within designated categories no later than March 16, 2007. The federal government is the single largest consumer in the United States, purchasing roughly $400 billion in products and services. In coming weeks, USDA will designate additional items for federal procurement. USDA has already identified more than 150 biobased product categories and more than 3,800 individual products for preferred procurement status.
According to the ABE, while the final rule is a positive step forward, a lot of work with the administration and Congress still needs to be done to put into effect the requirement that all federal agencies buy biobased products. The coalition believes implementation is critical if the federal government is to shift its estimated $400 billion in annual purchasing from petroleum-based to biobased products.
The alliance insists the implementation has tremendous potential for a multiplier effect. "The federal government can lead by example, so state and local governments and the general public can make use of biobased products. The federal government's blazed the marketplace trail for America's use of recycled paper, and it can do the same for biobased products," says the alliance.