Research and development, capacity building and market development will help bolster existing markets, catalyze new markets.

Krissa Welshans, Livestock Editor

March 15, 2024

3 Min Read
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a plan it says will boost biomass supply chain resiliency for domestic biobased product manufacturing, while also advancing environmental sustainability and market opportunities for small and mid-sized producers.

A newly published report, “Building a Resilient Biomass Supply: A Plan to Enable the Bioeconomy in America,” is one of the key USDA deliverables of President Biden’s Executive Order 14081, which was issued in 2022 and defined goals and priorities meant to catalyze action inside and outside of government to advance America’s domestic bioeconomy.

“The increasing demand for biomass is a golden opportunity to expand markets and create new revenue for American farmers, ranchers and forest landowners, particularly in rural areas,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Council meeting in Washington, DC. “We are proud to support President Biden’s commitment to advance America’s domestic bioeconomy and ultimately create new markets and jobs. This comprehensive roadmap will strengthen our production and preprocessing systems to provide incentives for producers and manufacturers, so that biomass can be used to fuel the American bioeconomy.”

Biomass is organic material that comes from crop residues, agricultural and food wastes, forest residuals, livestock, as well as biomass crops that are grown specifically as feedstocks to produce biobased products. After harvest or collection, biomass can be used to make sustainable fuel, fibers, electricity, construction materials, plastics, insulation, personal care items, and many other biobased products. Currently, the USDA BioPreferred Program estimates there are at least 40,000 non-food and nonfuel bioproducts commercially available. A recently published report showed biobased products contributed $489 billion to the U.S. economy in 2021, a more than 5% increase from $464 billion in 2020.

Driven by this clear and growing consumer demand for biobased products, USDA’s plan to support a resilient and responsibly sourced biomass supply chain furthers the department’s commitment to developing a circular bioeconomy, where agricultural resources are harvested, consumed, and reused in a sustainable manner.

The plan finds that U.S. biomass supplies are abundant, which positions the U.S. to convert biomass into biobased products. However, the agency said improvements to biomass supply chain logistics and materials handling technology as well as incentives for farmers to produce biomass are needed. Among the plan’s recommendations are to research and deploy improved biomass crops, take advantage of woody biomass residuals, and to help develop markets for biobased products through USDA’s BioPreferred Program.

“Strengthening research and development, capacity building, and biomass market development will help bolster existing markets and catalyze new markets,” said Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA chief scientist and under secretary for research, education and economics.

Published alongside the plan is an Implementation Framework roadmap of near-term actions around six major actions:

  1. Develop the next generation of biomass feedstocks and increase use of cover crops

  2. Improve access and utilization of woody biomass for biobased products

  3. Invest in resilient infrastructure and capacity to utilize biomass feedstocks for more jobs and stronger rural economies

  4. Support new and better markets for biobased products that drive demand for biomass feedstocks

  5. Promote climate-smart practices to enhance productivity and sustainability of biomass feedstocks

  6. Provide stakeholder outreach and technical assistance to ensure the resilience of biomass and biobased supply chains

USDA also released a fact sheet outlining the Department’s 2023 bioeconomy accomplishments, which include $772 million in investments for research, development, and infrastructure involving biofuels, fertilizer production, crop innovations, biobased products and more.

About the Author(s)

Krissa Welshans

Livestock Editor

Krissa Welshans grew up on a crop farm and cow-calf operation in Marlette, Michigan. Welshans earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University and master’s degree in public policy from New England College. She and her husband Brock run a show cattle operation in Henrietta, Texas, where they reside with their son, Wynn.

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