A program designed to promote ethanol and biodiesel fuels will be expanded to companies using plant-based plastic, rubber and fiber in manufacturing products such as bottles and packaging, the U.S. Agriculture Department said on Wednesday.
The USDA is proposing in a new agency rule to add manufacturers of these plant-based products to a loan guarantee program that has provided more than $844 million for 10 biofuel projects since 2008. Loan guarantees allow companies building new plants to borrow money at lower interest rates. Under the proposed new rules loans of up to $250 million will be offered to projects involving development of plant-based materials for manufacturing, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
The rule expanding the program, authorized in last year's farm bill, will become final on June 23.
It's part of a government program initiated by President Barack Obama designed to promote replacement of petroleum in plastic, rubber and fiber with plant-based materials.
A report released Wednesday by the USDA said the plant-based materials industry created four million jobs and contributed $369 billion to the nation's economy in 2013.
From sugarcane-based plastic Coke bottles to soybean oil-derived Ford Mustang seat cushions, bio-based manufacturing has accelerated over the last decade.
The report, mandated in the 2014 farm bill and commissioned by the USDA was researched and written by professors at Duke University and North Carolina State University.
It details how the agency's BioPreferred program, created in the 2002 Farm Bill, has driven new development by requiring government agencies to use their purchasing power to buy when possible products made with plant-based materials. The program also has initiated a labeling program which identifies more than 2,200 products as USDA certified bio-based materials. The program was part of Obama's initiative to revitalize and modernize the rural economy, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. (full article...)
BY DAVID PITT, The Telegraph, June 17, 2015