USDA BioPreferred Program
The BioPreferred program includes:
- a preferred procurement program for Federal agencies and their contractors,
- and a voluntary labeling program for biobased products.
Under the Federal procurement preference program, USDA designates categories of biobased products. Federal agencies and their contactors are then required to give preferential consideration to these designated products when making purchases.
As a part of this process of designating product categories, USDA establishes the minimum biobased content standard for each product category. Information on the technical, health, and environmental characteristics of these products is also considered.
For more information about the BioPreferred Procurement program, go to USDA’s BioPreferredSM program website’s Procurement page.
USDA issued its final rule establishing the voluntary labeling program for biobased products on January 20, 2011. USDA is required to establish the program under Section 9002 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, as amended by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008.
On February 21, 2011, USDA began accepting online applications from companies seeking to use the “USDA Certified Biobased Product” label on its products. After being certified by USDA, manufacturers and vendors will be able to market their products using the USDA label. Applications must be submitted for each product for which a company is seeking certification. More detailed information on the following categories is below:
To be eligible for the label, a product must meet the definition of a “biobased product” and also meet a specified minimum biobased content.
- For a product that falls within a product category that has been designated by USDA for Federal preferred procurement, the product must meet the minimum biobased content established for its particular category or categories.
- For a finished product that is not within a product category already designated by USDA, a minimum 25% biobased content is required.
- For a product that is an intermediate ingredient or feedstock that is not within a USDA designated product category, a minimum 25% biobased content is required.
For products that do not fall within a USDA designated product category and for products that are intermediates or feedstocks, USDA may approve, at its discretion, an alternative applicable minimum biobased content (other than 25%) if manufacturers, vendors, groups of manufacturers and/or vendors, or trade associations provide analysis to support an alternative minimum content.
If a product or intermediate or feedstock falls within a product category that USDA subsequently designates for preferred procurement, the applicable minimum biobased content for use of the label becomes, as of the effective date of the final designation rule, the minimum biobased content for that designated product category.
Both product manufacturers and vendors can apply for the label. Manufacturers and vendors seeking to use the label must submit an application through the USDA website for each biobased product the company wants certified.
Companies will be asked to provide certain basic information as part of completing the initial application on the website, such as product name, the product’s biobased content, USDA designated item category (if applicable), company contact information, company website address (if available). Companies also will have to agree to have biobased content testing performed by an accredited laboratory using ASTM Method D6866. After completing the online application, companies will be placed in direct contact with USDA’s third party certifier, ASTM International. ASTM will provide further information on the biobased content testing requirements, including a list of laboratories certified to conduct the testing. USDA is requiring new testing for products applying for the label with the exception of so-called “legacy” products. Companies that have had their products tested during the period February 20, 2010 to February 20, 2011, can submit those testing data to ASTM for approval in lieu of conducting new testing.
USDA will review each submitted application to determine if it is “complete.” If USDA determines an application is not complete, USDA will return the application to the applicant with an explanation of the deficiencies. The applicant can then correct the deficiencies and resubmit the application.
Within 60 days of the receipt of a complete application, USDA will provide a written response stating whether the application has been conditionally approved or disapproved. If the application is conditionally approved, an applicant must then submit to USDA the required information for posting on the USDA website. Once USDA has received that information, the Agency will issue a “notice of certification.”
If the application is disapproved, an applicant may file an appeal to the USDA Program Manager. If the Program Manager denies the applicant’s appeal, the applicant may appeal the Program Manager’s decision to the USDA Assistant Secretary for Administration.
Approved applicants will receive a code from USDA that will allow them to download the specific label artwork that they can use for their product. For each approved label, the artwork USDA provides will indicate whether it is the product or the packaging or both that is certified, the certified biobased content percentage, and in the case of products that fall within a USDA designated item category the “FP” mark will be on the label.
The label artwork provided to the company by USDA may not be altered, cut, separated into components, or distorted in appearance or perspective. The label must appear only in certain colors: (1) a multi-color version with the USDA-approved colors, (2) a one-color version using one of the USDA approved colors, or (3) a black and white version.
The certification to use the label will remain in effect as long as the product is manufactured and marketed in accordance with the approved application. However, if USDA revises the applicable required minimum biobased content for a product to be eligible to use the label, manufacturers and vendors may continue to label their previously certified product only if it meets the new minimum biobased content.
Only manufacturers and vendors who have received a notice of certification, or their designated representatives, may use the label on the product or its packaging. Other entities may use the label to advertise or promote certified products in materials such as advertisements, catalogs, procurement databases, promotional or educational materials, Web sites, or user manuals to distinguish products that have been certified from those that have not. Manufacturers and vendors who obtain certification are responsible for how their companies, as well as any designated representatives, including advertising agencies, marketing and public relations firms and subcontractors, use the label.
USDA’s final rule includes a list of the correct uses of the label as well as the incorrect uses of the label.
In its final rule, USDA has identified the types of actions that it will consider violations. These include: biobased content violations (i.e., content below applicable minimum biobased content level or below certified application level), label violations (i.e. improper usage or display), application violations (i.e., knowingly providing false or misleading information), and USDA BioPreferred Website violations (i.e., failure to provide updated or new information for a certified product).
When USDA believes that a violation has occurred, the Agency will first issue a preliminary notice of violation. If there is not a satisfactory resolution of the issue between USDA and the entity receiving the notice within 30 days, USDA will the issue a Notice of Violation (NOV). Entities receiving an NOV will have 90 days to correct the violation or USDA will issue a notice suspending the label certification. After receiving a notice of suspension, a manufacturer or vendor has 30 days to make the necessary corrections and to notify USDA. If USDA approves the corrections, it will restore the label certification.
If the corrections have not been made and USDA has not been notified within 30 days, then the Agency will notify the manufacturer or vendor that the certification for that product is revoked. If a manufacturer or vendor whose product certification has been revoked wishes to start using the label again, a new application for certification must be submitted to USDA.
In addition to the suspension or revocation of the certification to use the label, depending on the nature of the violation, USDA may take other actions, including suspension or debarment from receiving Federal financial and non-financial assistance and benefits under Federal programs and activities and any other remedies available by law, including any civil or criminal remedies, against any entity.
Violations will apply on a per product basis and notices of violations, suspensions, and revocations can be appealed, first to the USDA Program Manager and then to the USDSA Assistant Secretary for Administration.
Manufacturers and vendors will be required to keep records (for three years beyond the end of the label certification period) documenting compliance with the labeling program. The records must be available for Federal representatives to inspection.
USDA will conduct oversight and monitoring of manufacturers, vendors, designated representatives and other entities involved with the use of the label, including facility visits, random biobased content testing, and inspection of records.
 Biobased product is defined as a commercial or industrial product (other than food or feed) that is: (1) Composed, in whole or in significant part, of biological products, including renewable domestic agricultural materials and forestry materials; or (2) An intermediate ingredient or feedstock. The term “biobased product” does not include motor vehicle fuels, heating oil, electricity produced from biomass, or any mature market products. Mature market products are those that had significant national market penetration in 1972.
 A manufacturer is defined as an entity that performs the necessary chemical and/or mechanical processes to make a final marketable product.
 A vendor is defined as an entity that offers for sale final marketable biobased products that are produced by manufacturers.
 A designated representative is an entity authorized by a manufacturer or vendor to affix the USDA certification mark to the manufacturer’s or vendor’s certified biobased product or its packaging.