Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has announced the publication of a final rule to implement a program of preferred procurement of biobased products by federal agencies. This final rule establishes provisions for the Federal Biobased Products Preferred Procurement Program. This program, authorized by section 9002 of the 2002 Farm Bill, requires all federal agencies to preferentially purchase biobased products that have been designated by USDA as eligible under this program.

"The Federal Biobased Products Preferred Procurement Program creates a preference across the entire federal government to purchase biobased products, when practical, based on price, availability and performance," Veneman said during remarks at the 2005 American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting. "This rule promotes energy independence and the use of environmentally sustainable energy from biological sources, while at the same time creating new demand for agricultural commodities and new business investment and job growth in rural America."

The new rule establishes the process by which the Department of Agriculture will designate "items" for preferred procurement by federal agencies. Items are generic groupings of biobased products, such as biobased greases, biodiesel and ethanol when used as additives, hydraulic fluids, biobased polymers, industrial solvents, biobased fertilizers and cutting oils. Federal agencies must assure within one year after the publication of this final rule that their procurement specifications require the preference of biobased products consistent with this rule. The rule is scheduled to be in the Jan. 11, 2005, issue of the Federal Register and will be posted at when available.

USDA plans to soon begin issuing a series of proposed rules that will designate specific items for program eligibility. After considering public comments, final rules will be promulgated. This process of designating items by rulemaking is expected to extend over the next three years. Once an item is designated, all manufacturers with products that fall within that item may claim preferred procurement status for their products when marketing to federal agencies as long as the biobased content of their products is consistent with the statutory definition and meets the minimum levels specified in the designation rule. While this program is still being implemented, many federal agencies are already incorporating biobased products in their acquisition orders.

To date, USDA has identified 83 items on which it is developing test information to support designation by rulemaking.

Source: USDA Release