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USDA Biobased Labels Debut

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a voluntary product certification for biobased commercial and industrial products.

The “USDA Certified Biobased Product” label will designate products, other than food and feed, that derive a certain proportion of their materials from biological sources.

Product categories under the initiative include personal and institutional cleaning products, construction products, and lubricants and greases.

A final rule initiating the labeling system is being published in today’s Federal Register.

“Today’s consumers are increasingly interested in making educated purchasing choices for their families,” said deputy agriculture secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “This label will make those decisions easier by identifying products as biobased.

“These products have enormous potential to create green jobs in rural communities, add value to agricultural commodities, decrease environmental impacts, and reduce our dependence on imported oil,” Merrigan added.

Products can qualify for the label in one of two ways:

  • Those within pre-identified product categories  must meet the minimum biobased content of that category.
  • Those that do not fall within a pre-identified category must be 25 percent biobased, or the applicant can apply for an alternative minimum biobased content allowance.

Proposals for the labeling program were detailed in summer 2009.

The initiative is part of the USDA’s BioPreferred program, created by the 2002 Farm Bill and strengthened in the 2008 Farm Bill. The program also includes a biobased product preference for federal agencies.

BioPreferred has already identified about 5,100 biobased products for preferred purchasing, but the USDA estimates that there are 20,000 biobased products being manufactured in the U.S.

The biobased industry is responsible for over 100,000 jobs and is growing, the USDA says.

A recent “11 Hot Trends for 2011” survey by BioFuels Digest reported that nearly half of respondents believe that biofuel producers will begin to develop more biobased products to widen their revenue streams in the next year.

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