Under their cooperative agreement, USDA will provide $1 million annually for testing biobased products which will help enable USDA move more quickly to get the biobased product procurement program in operation.

“We expect this new program to help stimulate broad interest in commercial and industrial products made from agricultural and forest materials,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. “This initiative will help expand markets for farmers and foresters.”

In the near future, she said, USDA will issue proposed guidelines for use by federal agencies in meeting the biobased product procurement requirements as outlined in the 2002 farm bill. An electronic list of available qualified biobased products will be provided to federal agencies to assist them in meeting their purchase requirements.

A voluntary USDA Certified Biobased Product labeling program will emphasize the beneficial environmental and performance characteristics of biobased products that qualify for the use of the label.

Veneman said Iowa State University was chosen to lead the effort because of the significant resources it has directed toward developing biobased products and bioenergy, including its Biorenewable Resources and Technology graduate program, Center for Crops Utilization Research and Center for Industrial Research.

Under the agreement, Iowa State University will partner with other universities and entities to develop capacity for testing biobased products, including:

  • Create a management information system for the long-term operation of the biobased procurement, labeling and testing program;

  • Establish the capability for testing biobased products by its own scientists;

  • Identify and qualify other university and private sector testing entities across the United States;

  • Establish protocols and procedures to assure availability of capacity and capability to perform biobased testing of products that manufacturers want to qualify for placement on the preferred procurement list;

  • Coordinate product-testing services to manufacturers and prospective purchasers.

USDA will provide a portion of the funds available under the energy title of the farm bill to the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to enable its Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) model to analyze products made from biobased feedstocks.

As a result of this work, the BEES model will be fully available for use by manufacturers of biobased products to evaluate the life cycle costs and environmental effects of their products, on a cost reimbursable basis. The BEES model will facilitate labeling by evaluating the environmental and life cycle effects of biobased products.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com