By Ilana R. Morady and Eric E. Boyd

On September 25, 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it is trying to bolster the manufacturing industry by increasing the number of biobased products available to federal agencies.  Under the USDA’s BioPreferred program, the Department designates categories of biobased products and lists individual products available for preferred purchasing by federal agencies and their contractors.  Pursuant to an Executive Order signed by President Obama in 2009, federal agencies are required to ensure that ninety-five percent of new contracts use biobased products when available.

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.  Biobased products do not include fossil fuels such as coal or petroleum, motor vehicle fuels, heating oil and electricity produced from biomass (biological material from living or recently living organisms, most commonly used as a renewal energy source).   

The USDA currently has a total of seventy-seven categories in its catalog of approved biobased products. Twelve of these categories have been added since June of this year, and the Department expects to add more categories by February, 2013.  The seventy-seven categories, including categories for lotions and moisturizers, and shaving products, represent 9,300 individual products approved for federal purchasing. The Department has stated a goal of increasing the number of individual products approved for federal purchasing to 18,000.