WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Alliance for a Biobased Economy commended the U.S. Department of Defense yesterday for taking a leading role in promoting biobased products.

DoD is hosting a biobased products event to respond to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and other congressional leaders' push to increase government procurement of eco-friendly products. The event is also designed to further policy and education of the benefits of biobased products.

The program, under way today and tomorrow morning, informs DoD employees about the wide variety of biobased products that benefit the environment, boost the rural economy and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Speakers include U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), and Sens. Harkin and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who coauthored the biobased provisions in the 2002 farm bill.

The program also includes panel discussions where participants receive information on how these products can help meet the department's environmental goals and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

More than 30 biobased manufacturers are on hand with information on their products. Biobased products showcased at the event range from corn-based fabrics to soy-based hydraulic fluids to carpet backing.

The Energy Title of the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act calls on government agencies to buy biobased products. The USDA is implementing the biobased provisions. USDA reports it has identified more than 150 biobased product categories and more than 3,800 individual products for preferred procurement status.

The ABE has encouraged the federal government to lead by example in purchasing biobased products so state and local governments and the general public can make use of such products.

"The federal government blazed the marketplace trail for America's use of recycled paper, and it can do the same for biobased products," the Alliance said. "The DoD buys more products than any other federal agency, so its leadership is key to growth of biobased procurement."

The ABE is a diverse group made up of 32 members and includes commodity groups such as the American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, and American Farm Bureau Federation, along with a variety of biobased businesses, the Consumer Federation of America, National Resources Defense Council, and Environmental and Energy Study Institute.

ABE advocates support of biobased products and works to increase understanding in Congress of the issues facing biobased product procurement by the federal government. In addition, the coalition is urging more support for research into the technology of manufacturing products made by renewable sources.

SOURCE: National Corn Growers Association via PrimeZone.