Bio-based industry worth $369B — USDA 

Source: Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2015

The U.S. bio-based materials industry contributed 4 million jobs and $369 billion to the economy in 2013, a new Agriculture Department report has found.

In addition, each job in the bio-based products industry creates on average 1.64 additional jobs outside the sector. The products also displace about 300 million gallons of fossil fuel, the report found. The study quantifies the impact of the industry — buoyed by the federal BioPreferred program — for the first time, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“Before, we could only speculate at the incredible economic impact of the biobased products industry,” he said in a statement.

The farm bill’s Section 9003 program, better known as the BioPreferred program, created a system to voluntarily label products as bio-based and implemented a federal procurement program for such products. The BioPreferred program database includes about 20,000 bio-based products, although the actual number of products is likely double that, according to the report.

On Monday, USDA’s Office of Procurement and Policy implemented a final rule from last year that removed a provision in the BioPreferred program that precluded “mature markets” like wood products from eligibility in the program (Greenwire, Aug. 4, 2014).

Vilsack also announced the upcoming publication of a rule that will make it easier for federally funded biorefineries to produce more renewable chemicals and bio-based products, rather than just biofuels. The facilities would also be able to convert renewable chemicals into finished products, not just intermediary ingredients.

Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) lauded the new report.

“With 4 million Americans benefiting from this industry and our economy seeing $365 billion in added value, we must continue moving forward with policies that grow this sector and support these jobs,” she said.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization, which announced today it will soon change its name to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (see related story), also welcomed the findings.

“The BioPreferred program provides an important opportunity for products made with renewable resources, including renewable chemicals, to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. It is an important source of market pull for this emerging sector,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section.