Iowa gets boost from bio-based goods, USDA says

Source: By Christopher Doering, Des Moines Register • Posted: Thursday, October 6, 2016

WASHINGTON — The production of bio-based goods in Iowa has helped improve the rural economy with jobs and revenue, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday.

A report released by the Agriculture Department estimated production of bio-based items directly created more than 20,000 jobs and contributed $1.74 billion to Iowa’s economy in 2014.

Bio-based products made from renewable sources include fabrics, bottles, textiles and cleaning supplies.

In a speech Monday, Vilsack said the industry has helped reduce unemployment in the rural U.S. economy below 6 percent, stabilized the area’s once declining population and helped the environment.

“It’s a significant aspect of the rural economy, and one that I think has tremendous opportunities to continue to grow,” Vilsack said. “America has an appetite for everyday products … made from renewable sources.”

Iowa is the nation’s No. 1 ethanol producer, but 27th when it comes to creating jobs from the manufacture of bio-based products. California leads the nation with 145,000 bio-based jobs.

Nearly all of Iowa’s bio-based impact on the state’s economy came from forest products, at $1.5 billion. Smaller contributions came from bio-based chemicals and enzymes.

Nationwide, Vilsack said bio-based products contributed $393 billion and 4.2 million jobs to the American economy in 2014, both up from the previous year.

Contact Christopher Doering at or reach him at Twitter: @cdoering