L to R: Nicholas Kercheval, USB Director, West Virginia; Belinda Burrier, USB Director, Maryland (Infrastructure & Connectivity Priority Area Coordinator); Angela Tin, American Lung Association Vice President, Environmental Health; Tim Fitzgerald, Former Director of District of Columbia Department of Public Works, Fleet Management; Susan Watkins, USB Director, Virginia

U.S. soybeans support cleaner environments and climate change initiatives in some of the nation’s most populous cities. The Biobased Academy® is one partnership that goes the extra mile to further soy-biobased products in vehicle fleets.

Funded by U.S. soybean farmers, this joint partnership with the American Lung Association recently recognized fleet leaders as part of National Biobased Products Day. Fleet and facility professionals who participated completed a training program on the operational, health, safety and environmental benefits of using biobased products. The graduates of the Academy represented the District of Columbia; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Cobb County, Georgia; and Madison, Wisconsin. Additionally, the fleet professionals from the Smithsonian Institution look forward to completing the course this spring.

“Farmers, through their checkoff, remain committed to creating sustainable cities. Our goal is to invest in fleet education and outreach to promote the benefits of switching to renewable products made with U.S. Soy,” said Susan Watkins, checkoff farmer-leader from Virginia. “Since the Academy launched publicly in October 2022, more than 30 fleet professionals from 20 communities have completed the training. The Biobased Academy not only strengthens cities and communities but also brings value back to all soybean farmers.”

Soybean oil can replace petroleum-based compounds in thousands of products. Whether it’s rubber, plastics, lubricants or coatings, soy as an ingredient doesn’t sacrifice performance or competitive pricing. Checkoff-supported research leads to the commercialization of new soy-based products each year.

Cargie Vaughn, associate director of the Smithsonian Institution facilities, said the organization has upgraded a significant amount of its Washington, D.C., fleet. Previously, they used petroleum-based tires but have made the switch to soy-based Goodyear® tires.

“The Smithsonian intends to replace 100% of our fleet’s tires,” said Vaughn. “We visited a farm and saw for ourselves that U.S. farmers implement sustainable practices to grow soybeans. Our own evaluations show that the soy-biobased tires are high performing, too.”

There are multiple benefits to using biobased products in the transportation sector. Implementing these products protects workers by reducing exposure to harsh chemicals and fumes while helping organizations reduce their environmental footprint. Making the switch also contributes to the American economy by increasing the use and sale of products made with U.S. soybeans.

Specific to the economic benefits, a USDA Rural Development report shows that the biobased products industry:

  • Supports 4.6 million American jobs through direct, indirect and induced contributions.
  • Contributes $470 billion to the U.S. economy.
  • Generates 2.79 jobs in other sectors for every biobased job.
  • Displaces about 9.4 million barrels of oil a year.

In addition to tires, fleets can find several soy-biobased products on the market, including synthetic motor oil and fifth-wheel grease. Tim Fitzgerald, District of Columbia fleet administrator and USB bio ambassador, said the biobased grease does the job better and more sustainably than the petroleum-based products used before.

“As a leader of a fleet in our nation’s capital, I am proud to stand alongside this group of innovators in our industry. They not only completed the Biobased Academy program, but also adopted a new and climate-forward standard for their fleets,” said Fitzgerald. “They demonstrate care for their employees, communities and environment. It’s fitting that we recognize them in conjunction with USDA’s first National Biobased Products Day.”