Bio-based product industry contributes 4.2m jobs

New report found bio-based product industry continues to grow and added $393 billion to the economy.

A new report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that, in 2014, the bio-based product industry contributed $393 billion and 4.2 million jobs to America's recovering economy. The report also indicates that the sector has grown, creating or supporting an additional 220,000 jobs and $24 billion from 2013 to 2014.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who has identified the bio-based economy as one of the four pillars that support the U.S. rural economy, released the report at a luncheon Monday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

"When USDA released the first-ever 'Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Bio-based Products Industry' last year, we were thrilled to see what a positive impact this sector was having on our economy, and this updated analysis shows that the sector is not just holding strong but growing," Vilsack said.

"America has an appetite for everyday products — including plastic bottles, textiles, cleanings supplies and more — made from renewable sources, and that demand is fueling millions of jobs, bringing manufacturing back to our rural communities and reducing our nation's carbon footprint," he added. "As this sector is strengthening, so is the economy in rural America, where this year the unemployment rate dropped below 6% for the first time since 2007. USDA is proud to see such strong returns on our investment into the bio-based products industry."

This report is the second "Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Bio-Based Products Industry" released by USDA, and it analyzes revenue and jobs created by the bio-based product industry at the national and state level in 2014. USDA released the first report of this kind last year, which analyzed the same information based on 2013 data. The new report shows that the industry directly supported 1.53 million jobs in 2014, with each job in the industry responsible for generating 1.76 jobs in other sectors. In 2013, the industry was found to contribute $369 billion and 4 million jobs to the U.S. economy.

In addition to their contribution to the rural economy, innovative, bio-based materials also have key environmental benefits, including reducing the use of fossil fuels and the emission of associated greenhouse gases (GHGs). The production and use of bio-based products replacing petroleum-based products had the potential to reduce GHG emissions up to 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2014.

These materials are increasingly being used as substitutes for petroleum-based materials, which have been used extensively for many years. An example of this petroleum displacement by a bio-based material is the use of natural fibers in packing and insulating materials as an alternative to synthetic foams, such as Styrofoam. The increased use of bio-based products currently displaces about 300 million gal. of petroleum per year — the equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road.

Today, USDA's BioPreferred Program, which was created by the 2002 farm bill and reauthorized and expanded as part of the 2014 farm bill, has an online catalog of more than 15,000 products, 2,700 of which have been certified to carry the USDA Bio-based Product label. The USDA BioPreferred Program's purpose is to spur economic development, create new jobs and provide new markets for farm commodities.

The BioPreferred Program commissioned the "Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Bio-Based Products Industry" report, which is primarily authored by J.S. Golden, R.B. Handfield, J. Daystar, B. Morrison and, T.E. McConnell and is a joint publication of the Duke Center for Sustainability & Commerce and the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative at North Carolina State University.

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