News Analysis

USDA Announces Biobased Rule

According to USDA, the rule has three primary objectives: to increase demand for biobased products, thereby reducing the environmental degradation stemming from federal purchases; to encourage investment and job growth in rural parts of the country; and to strengthen the nation’s energy security by reducing its reliance on imported oil and natural gas. The rule is modeled after the Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to encourage the use of products with recycled content (see feature article), and in cases where the two rules contradict one another, federal agencies are instructed to follow the recycled-content CPG. The new rule does not apply to the purchase of motor-vehicle fuels or electricity.

USDA will issue rules to designate eligible product categories, or “items,” and provide information on the availability, cost, performance, and environmental and public-health benefits of various items over the coming three years. Some building-related items include composite panels,hydraulic fluids, erosion-control products, and urethane roof coatings. According to Marvin Duncan, senior agricultural economist with USDA’s Office of Energy Policy and New Uses, USDA is especially concerned with product performance. “Sometimes there’s a practical upper limit to biobased content, given current science,” he told EBN. Some biobased hydraulic fluids, for example, are appropriate for use only in warm weather. After USDA proposes rules for eligibility within a particular item, the proposal will pass through a public-comment period. USDA is already developing information to support the listing of more than 80 items.

Published February 1, 2005

Boehland, J. (2005, February 1). USDA Announces Biobased Rule. Retrieved from