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March 8, 2023
Last month, USDA announced March 8 would be designated National Biobased Products Day. The agency plans to make the observance an annual event to raise awareness of biobased products as well as their benefits and contributions to the American economy.
Increasing bioproduct production is a priority of the Biden administration. During recent speeches, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has touted investments in programs that incentivize biobased products. It is part of a vision for the future of agriculture that foresees small and mid-sized operations having multiple revenue streams, enabling them to better compete with larger operations.
“The bipartisan infrastructure law invested in the biobased economy, instructing us to invest resources on projects, for example, that turn soybeans into something that will repair roads more easily and less expensively, by using soybeans and converting them into an asphalt-type product” he said during an address to the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum on Feb. 23. “We are now investing in a biobased economy that will over time give us the ability to create from agricultural waste chemicals, fibers, fuel energy.”
Vilsack says that the administration is actively encouraging federal agencies to purchase biobased products. USDA currently has a catalog of 139 categories. Within each one are multiple bio-produced products that can be utilized
The Secretary also believes farmers have the opportunity to balance the fossil fuel-based economy with a biogas economy. He cites sustainable aviation fuel as a tremendous opportunity for the agriculture industry. While electric cars are becoming more prevalent on American roadways, there is no current technology that would allow airliners to fly efficiently with giant batteries. Hence, there is a huge demand to finds a more sustainable way to supply an estimated 36 billion gallons of jet fuel.
“This is a whole new industry that hasn’t existed,” Vilsack said. “Biobased products are a phenomenal opportunity.”
In conjunction with National Biobased Products Day, stakeholders are encouraged to promote the observance and plan ways to tell their stories. USDA Rural Development offered multiple suggestion including getting kids involved, visiting schools or community groups, giving employees an incentive to celebrate and hosting educational webinars.
The organization offered a checklist with additional suggestions for the day. USDA also plans to promote the event on social media under the handle @BioPreferred.
Policy editor, Farm Progress
Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.
Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.
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