The 2023 Farm Bill presents an opportunity to advance a number of policy objectives to support growth of the bioproducts industry. In collaboration with the Plant Based Products Council, we have identified a preliminary set of priorities to advance through the Farm Bill:
Across government agencies and the private sector, many terms are used when discussing products in the bioeconomy, including plant-based, biobased, biodegradable, and compostable. Many of these terms are confusing to consumers, industry stakeholders, and policymakers because they are used inappropriately or inconsistently, are not well defined, or are simply not well known. The lack of harmonization for key bioeconomy terms leads to consumer distrust, confusion in the marketplace, inaccurate industry data, and misguided policy. Uniform definitions are critical to the future growth of the biobased products industry. USDA has distinct expertise in agricultural feedstocks and biobased product markets. CRA recommends that Congress provide USDA with appropriate statutory authority to establish nationally uniform standardized definitions of key bioproduct industry terms.
USDA’s BioPreferred Program has supported the ag bioeconomy for 20 years by promoting federal procurement of biobased products. During the 2023 Farm Bill process, Congress has the opportunity to strengthen the BioPreferred Program’s support for rural economic development in the U.S. and to enhance U.S. competitiveness in global bioeconomy markets. Recommendations include minimum requirements for biobased-only procurement contracts; definition of minimum price differentials; improved compliance, reporting, and data collection across the federal government; expanded promotion of biobased products within the federal government and to the public; regular updates to product categories and biobased content requirements; and updated funding levels.
It is hard to measure what one cannot see. Today, biomanufacturers are very difficult to see in government collected data because they do not have their own codes under the current North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Under the present NAICS codes, biobased product manufacturing is hidden in a smattering of classifications (e.g., plastic, chemicals, packaging, etc.), rather than given distinct codes for their production. New biobased product manufacturing NAICS codes would greatly enhance the ability of firms and researchers to track the industry and for government policymakers and other stakeholders to make more informed decisions and policy. Measuring growth in economic areas like jobs and average wages is key to understanding how public policy is helping this new industry, what barriers should be addressed, and where investment is needed.
The 2018 Farm Bill included language directing the Department of Commerce and USDA to work together to develop NAICS codes specifically for the biobased product manufacturing industry. While this work was not completed for inclusion in the 2022 NAICS updates, additional progress is anticipated pursuant to the Biden Administration’s September 2022 Executive Order 14081, Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation. Congress should codify an interagency technical working group, under the direction of USDA, to ensure bioeconomy related revisions are finalized for incorporation in the 2027 NAICS updates.
Bioproduct entrepreneurs and companies in the U.S. face challenges when it comes to quickly bringing new products to market and supporting acceleration of R&D. Access to biorefineries that allow an entrepreneur to pilot a new bioproduct and to demonstrate the pathway to commercial scale production is very limited, creating a bottleneck in the development and launch of American made bioproducts. Such scale up infrastructure is essential for de-risking investment in newer innovations aiming for full-scale commercialization. Importantly, the federal government can help by providing funding support for additional bench scale and semi-commercial scale infrastructure to help de-risk and accelerate the commercialization of new and emerging bioproducts. The lack of demonstration grants is a major gap in the farm bill energy title that can be corrected using a prior program model and appropriate funding. Specifically, Congress should add cost-sharing grants for demonstration scale plants to USDA’s Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (Section 9003 of the Farm Bill). The program previously provided for such grants for biofuels and that model can be revised to fill an infrastructure development niche for non-fuel industrial biobased products demonstrations.
CRA is a founding member of the Ag Bioeconomy Coalition, which advocates for federal policy initiatives that support the growth and development of all elements of the U.S. agriculture bioeconomy, from products like bio-based fuels, renewable chemicals, manufacturing materials, and consumer goods.
CRA also supports the efforts of the U.S. Composting Infrastructure Coalition to strengthen USDA’s support of composting infrastructure development across the nation, such as the COMPOST Act.
CRA supports the National Corn Growers Association’s key principles for the 2023 Farm Bill, which include protecting federal crop insurance, bolstering U.S. international market development efforts, strengthening the producer safety net, supporting voluntary conservation programs, and championing initiatives important to rural America.
For more information, contact Robin Bowen at [email protected] or Kent Roberson at [email protected].