Forest products should be eligible for USDA’s Biobased Markets Program, which is marketed by USDA as the BioPreferred® program. The program is comprised of two separate initiatives: Product Labeling, which allows the USDA to authorize manufacturers and vendors of biobased products to use a “USDA Certified Biobased Product” mark in the broader marketplace, and a Federal Procurement Preference, which gives a preference for the purchase of biobased products by the federal government. While USDA’s BioPreferred Programs initiatives are well-intentioned, they have created a market disadvantage for U.S. forest products, and in some cases, have provided a preference for imported products.
The Government Should Not be Picking Winners and Losers
Despite the clear language of the 2008 Farm Bill defining a "biobased” product as “a product determined by the Secretary to be a commercial or industry product… that is composed in whole or significant part of biological products, including renewable domestic agriculture and forestry materials…,” USDA has arbitrarily excluded the majority of the forest industry’s products from these programs. The result is that products with far less biobased content than forest products -- as little as 25 percent -- are eligible to be included in these programs while many forest products are ineligible, even though forest products could have up to 100 percent biobased content. This clearly contradicts the law’s intent of encouraging “the purchase of products with the maximum biobased content.” Forest products meet that criterion in almost every instance.
The Product Labeling Program Raises Additional Concerns for Forest Product Manufacturers
While the USDA asserts that the label is not a statement of “environmental benefit,” the public is likely to perceive that labeled products are environmentally preferable. Without scientific justification, the label is deceptive to the public as it implies that the biobased attributes of products currently eligible are environmentally superior to those of forest products, which generally is inaccurate.
Congress should clarify that all forest products are eligible for the Biobased Markets Programs. AF&PA is supportive of the Forest Products Fairness Act (H.R. 979 and S. 463), which would create a level playing field for forest products.
Examples of Products Currently Listed in the USDA BioPreferred Catalog that Compete with Forest Products
- 100% Compostable Plant Fiber Take-Out Containers- World Centric
World Centric lists a line of 14 food packaging and serveware manufactured from Bagasse and other plant fibers (sugarcane and wheat straw).
Their website claims their products are, “a far superior alternative to both plastic (non-biodegradable, petroleum derived, pollution causing) and paper (causing the destruction of millions of acres of forests) tableware.”
- 100% Compostable Plant Fiber Trays- bambu, LLC
Bambu offer a line of 15 food packaging and serveware made entirely from bamboo.
Bambu claims their products are a, “sustainable replacement for Styrofoam, plastic and paper disposables,” along with being, “intended as single use, the non paper, paper plate,” and their, “answer to the paper plate.”
- Dura Soft Bath Tissue (also includes paper towels)- Teh Tung Corporation
Teh Tung lists 6 bath tissue and paper products.
Teh Tung claims in the USDA catalog that, “by using our paper, you convert what would otherwise become another greenhouse gas pollutant to a forest-preserving useful paper product.” They further assert that, “with your support, we are shifting the forest industry away from destruction of our forest and eco system for paper.”
- Kirei Bamboo (panels)- Kirei USA
Kirei USA is listed with 4 structural composite products.
Kirei claims in the USDA catalog that, “the fiber produced from these dedicated bamboo plantations is greater than would be produced from similarly committed wood forest land, helping to reduce pressure on habitat from clearcutting.”
- TerraFence- Natures Composites
Natures Composites manufactures deck and fencing material made form plastic and wheat straw.
Natures Composites claims in the USDA catalog that their product, “provides a superior and cost effective alternative to wood.”
- Bio Wrap- Cortec Corporation
Cortec is listed with 27 products.
Cortec’s Bio Wrap is cited in USDA’s catalog as being, “biobased, compostable, repulpable alternative to polycoated papers.”
- S.B.S. Paperboard – Green Up Street LLC
Green Up Street’s website claims that, “using cartons and boxes made with fibers from agricultural by-products such as sugarcane bagasse, saves natural forests from commercial logging and the loss of natural [habit] for native plants and wildlife. They can be produced in a way that significantly lowers greenhouse gas emission versus tree or recycled products.”