About $369 billion and four million jobs were added to the economy in 2013 alone thanks to the biobased product industry, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday.
"This report is the first to examine and quantify the effect of the U.S. biobased products industry from an economics and jobs perspective," Vilsack said. "Before, we could only speculate at the incredible economic impact of the biobased products industry."
Vilsack also on Wednesday announced changes under the 2014 Farm Bill that will create additional opportunities for growth in renewable plant-based materials.
"Today, we are also adding to the number of innovative products carrying USDA's BioPreferred label and expanding options for our nation's biorefineries," he said. "This means small businesses and global companies alike can continue to harness the power of America's farms and forests to create new and innovative biobased products that are used all around the world."
Economic impact of the biobased industry
According to the Economic Impact of the Biobased Product Industry report, each job in the biobased products industry is responsible for generating 1.64 jobs in other sectors of the economy.
In 2013, 1.5 million jobs directly supported the biobased product industry, resulting in 1.1 million indirect jobs in related industries, and another 1.4 million induced jobs produced from the purchase of goods and services generated by the direct and indirect jobs.
Estimates are that the use of biobased products currently displaces about 300 million gallons of petroleum per year – equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road.
According to the report, seven major overarching sectors represent the U.S. biobased products industry's contribution to the U.S. economy: agriculture and forestry, biorefining, biobased chemicals, enzymes, bioplastic bottles and packaging, forest products, and textiles.
The study also includes location quotients by state to show the impact of the industry on individual states. Seven case studies are presented from stakeholders such as The Coca-Cola Company and PlantBottle packaging, Patagonia, and Ford.
Changes for forest products
Also Wednesday, Vilsack announced changes to include new forest products in the BioPreferred program, along with proposed changes to the former Biorefinery Assistance Program to assist in the development of cutting-edge technologies for advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased product manufacturing.
The final BioPreferred program rules will no longer exclude mature market products (those that had a significant market share prior to 1972), providing consumers with more innovative wood products and other materials carrying USDA BioPreferred label, USDA said.
Forest products that meet biobased content requirements, notwithstanding the market share the product holds, the age of the product, or whether the market for the product is new or emerging, also now meet the definition of "biobased product."
Further, USDA is making changes to its Biorefinery Assistance Program.
The program, which was renamed as the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program as part of the program's Farm Bill reauthorization, provides loan guarantees of up to $250 million for the construction and retrofitting of commercial scale biorefineries and biobased product manufacturing facilities.
In a rule that will be published in the Federal Register next week, biorefineries that receive funding are allowed to produce more renewable chemicals and other biobased products, and not primarily advanced biofuels.
Biobased product manufacturing facilities also would be eligible to convert renewable chemicals and other biobased outputs of biorefineries into "end-user" products. The new regulations also implement a streamlined application process.