Vilsack announces $10M for biobased products

Pilot program focuses on supporting biobased products with lower carbon footprint and made from renewable ag materials.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

June 29, 2022

3 Min Read
corn plastic concept biobased products

While visiting an Iowa creamery on June 28, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced USDA is accepting applications for a new pilot program created under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to support the development of biobased products that have lower carbon footprints and increase the use of renewable agricultural materials, creating new revenue streams for farmers.

Vilsack visited Dan and Debbie Creamery, a family-owned operation in Ely, Iowa, and met to discuss what impact the Bioproduct Pilot Program and resulting innovations will have on operations like theirs, as well as the customers they serve. The creamery farm is about 500 acres with a 120-head dairy operation. 

“Dan and Debbie represent the many American farmers, families and communities USDA is called to serve,” Vilsack says. “This pilot program is a critical part of USDA’s commitment to enhancing the circular economy and providing additional revenue streams for farmers. This program will help farmers take field residues and waste products and turn them into value-added products that create wealth and drive economic development in rural areas.”

The pilot program, which was a priority of the American Soybean Association during drafting of the legislation, will provide $10 million over two years to study the benefits of biobased products for construction materials and consumer products.

Dave Walton grows soybeans in Iowa and is an ASA director and the chair of the association’s Biofuels and Infrastructure Committee. Walton says, “The Bioproduct Pilot Program will provide a great opportunity to expand upon what we in the soy family have been doing for years—creating plant-based, sustainable construction materials and consumer goods using U.S.-grown soy.”

Under this program, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture can award up to $10 million divided among the highest-rated applications that include eligible universities and private-sector partners. 

Plant Based Products Council Executive Director Jessica Bowman says USDA’s new pilot program for biobased products is another step forward for the U.S. bioeconomy. Biobased products can be made from a variety of renewable inputs, including corn, soy, hemp, seaweed, grasses and many other agricultural commodities.

“Through this new program, USDA has an opportunity to support these growing new markets for farmers and showcase how agriculture can be a leader in innovation by providing consumer and industrial biobased products that support environmental advancement and economic development opportunities,” Bowman says. “Looking ahead, there is more work to be done in ensuring government investments in the bioeconomy support the full scope of biobased innovations on the market and in development.”

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided funds for sustainable bioproduct manufacturing for construction and consumer products. The statute directs USDA to partner with “not less than one institution” to study the benefits of using materials derived from a very broad definition of “covered agricultural commodities.” 

Complete information on this funding opportunity can be found on the NIFA website. An informational webinar for those interested in applying will be held on July 14 from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. Central Time. To register, please visit the Bioproduct Pilot Program Informational Webinar page.

This project will be implemented by a team of USDA experts from NIFA’s Institute of Bioenergy, Climate and Environment, USDA Rural Development’s BioPreferred Program and the U.S. Forest Service Wood Innovations Team and Forest Products Lab. 

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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