By Eric E. Boyd and Ilana R. Morady

On February 21, 2012, the Obama Administration issued a Memorandum of Understanding to boost compliance with various mandates requiring federal agencies and contractors to purchase biobased products.  Biobased products are defined by the 2002 Farm Bill as “commercial or industrial products (other than food or feed) that are composed in whole, or in significant part, of biological products, renewable agricultural materials (including plant, animal, and marine materials), or forestry materials.”  The 2008 Farm Bill extended the definition of biobased products to include biobased intermediate ingredients or feedstocks.

Under the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) BioPreferred program, the Department designates categories of biobased products and lists individual products available for preferred purchasing by federal agencies and their contractors.  The President’s memorandum calls for the USDA to increase the number of biobased categories and listed products by 50% within one year.  Currently the USDA has designated 64 categories of biobased products representing 9,000 individual products for preferred purchasing but fewer that half of these products are actually on the USDA’s list.

The biobased product industry employs 50,000 people. The President’s memorandum aims to expand jobs in this sector by directing the USDA to provide training and assistance to biobased companies in order to increase awareness of the BioPreferred program and the opportunities it presents.