A new report suggests the U.S. biobased products industry has a notable impact on the nation’s economy. It is the first research effort to quantify the effect of this industry from an economics and jobs perspective, according to U.S. Agricultural Secretary, Tom Vilsack.
“Before, we could only speculate at the incredible economic impact of the biobased products industry. Now, we know that in 2013 alone, America’s biobased industry contributed four million jobs and $369 billion to our economy,” Vilsack said.
According to report, each job in the biobased products industry generates 1.64 jobs in other sectors of the economy. In 2013, 1.5 million jobs directly supported the production of biobased products, 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.
The report presents detailed U.S. maps showing the impact of the industry on individual states. Seven case studies are also presented from stakeholders such as The Coca-Cola Company’s PlantBottle packaging, Patagonia’s biorubber neoprene alternative and Ford’s soy-based auto components.
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The seven sectors analyzed in the report include agriculture and forestry, biorefining, biobased chemicals, enzymes, bioplastic packaging and textiles (the report does not include biobased fuels or other energy sources except when analyzing co-products). But these sectors alone are contributing to a significant reduction in the use of petroleum; the USDA estimates 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.
In addition to the report, Secretary Vilsack also announced improvements to the 2014 Farm Bill that will create additional opportunities for growth in renewable plant-based materials, supporting the Obama Administration’s efforts to develop a new rural economy and promote creation of sustainable jobs. Updates to the Biorefinery Assistance Program enable biorefineries that receive funding (under the rule, up to $250 million for the construction and retrofitting of commercial sale biorefineries) to produce more renewable chemicals and other biobased products, instead of primarily producing advanced biofuels. In addition, biobased product manufacturing facilities 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.
These announcements build on the USDA’s recent report, “Why Biobased?,” which outlines opportunities for U.S. agriculture and forests in the emerging bioeconomy. The USDA’s BioPreferred® program granted the first BioPreferred labels to products in 2011, setting the standard for those products that are composed wholly or significantly of agricultural ingredients, including renewable plant, animal, marine or forestry materials.
An update to the BioPreferred program rules, also announced by Vilsack last week, no longer excludes mature market products — those that had a significant market share prior to 1972). This provides consumers with more innovative wood products and other materials carrying the BioPreferred label, according to the USDA.