The federal BioPreferred Program® (BioPreferred), which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), was established by Congress through the 2002 Farm Bill and was subsequently expanded by the 2008, 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills. The program has two major parts:

  • mandatory purchasing requirements for federal agencies and their contractors; and,
  • a voluntary “USDA Certified Biobased Product’’ labeling initiative.

The 2018 Farm Bill extended and increased the program’s funding, directed that the program’s administration to be moved to USDA’s rural development mission area, and directed USDA to make certain changes to the processes for listing biobased products for mandatory purchasing and obtaining the USDA label.

USDA continues to expand the number of product categories designated for mandatory federal purchasing, now totaling 109 (including 12 categories representing biobased feedstocks and intermediates used in creating finished products) and another 30 categories of finished products have been proposed to be added. USDA also continues to award the “USDA Certified Biobased Product” label, 578 additional products received the label in fiscal year 2018. USDA is also adding “qualified” products, 664 in fiscal year 2018, to its online BioPreferred Catalog to assist users in identifying products that qualify for mandatory federal purchasing, are certified through the voluntary labeling initiative, or both.

Because federal biobased purchasing in required by the Farm Bill and included in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, it is covered by Executive Order (EO) 13834, “Efficient Federal Operations,” issued by President Trump. Section 2 (g) of EO directs the head of each agency to “[a]cquire, use, and dispose of products and services, including electronics, in accordance with statutory mandates for purchasing preference, Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements, and other applicable Federal procurement policies.”

See more information below for manufacturers and vendors and a summary of the new provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill.

Information for Manufacturers and Vendors

Mandatory Purchasing

Federal law, the Federal Acquisition Regulation, and President’s Trump’s Executive Order direct that all federal agencies purchase biobased products in categories identified by USDA. Each mandatory purchasing category specifies the minimum biobased content for “qualified” products within the category.

  • If you have not done so already, manufacturers or vendors that have a “qualified” biobased product(s), one that falls within the definition and meets the minimum biobased content of one of the USDA designated product categories, you should consider having your product(s) listed in the USDA online catalog. USDA’s BioPreferred “Company Tools” webpage provides information on how to add qualified biobased products to the BioPreferred Catalog.
  • If you are a manufacturer or vendor who has a “qualified” product(s) already listed in the BioPreferred Catalog you should ensure that your listing is up-to-date. In 2018, USDA conducted a program audit and some products listed in the online catalog were marked “Product information not able to be verified due to company audit non-response.”
  • Manufacturers of biobased intermediates and feedstocks should review the definitions and minimum biobased content of the 12 BioPreferred designated categories of intermediates – Binders; Chemicals; Cleaner Components; Fibers and Fabrics; Foams; Lubricant Components; Oils, Fats, and Waxes; Paint and Coating Components; Personal Care Product Components; Plastic Resins; Rubber Materials, and Textile Processing Materials. Manufacturers of intermediates or feedstocks that fall within the definition and meets the minimum biobased content of one of the12 designated intermediates categories, should consider having your product(s) listed in the USDA online catalog. USDA’s BioPreferred “Company Tools” webpage provides information on how to add qualified biobased products, including intermediates and feedstocks, to the BioPreferred Catalog. Over 140 companies have listed their intermediates in the BioPreferred Catalog.  Currently, 8 intermediates are listed under the Binders category; 204 intermediates under the Chemicals category; 81 intermediates under the Cleaners Component category; 124 intermediates under the Fiber and Fabrics category; 32 intermediates under the Foams category; 102 intermediates under the Lubricant Components category; 20 intermediates under the Oils, Fats, and Waxes category; 111 intermediates under the Paint and Coating Components category; 192 intermediates under the Personal Care Product Components category; 137 intermediates under the Plastic Resins category; 1 intermediate under the Rubber Materials category, and 45 intermediates under the Textile Processing Materials category.

Voluntary Labeling

According to USDA, the Certified Biobased Product label is designed to provide useful information to consumers about the biobased content of the product. Companies with a biobased product that meets USDA criteria can apply for certification. Once approved by USDA, a company can display the USDA Certified Biobased Product label on its certified product(s). This ensures that claims concerning the biobased content are third-party certified and strictly monitored by USDA.

Products that fall within one of the 109 USDA designated biobased product categories, including intermediates, must meet or exceed the minimum biobased content percentage in its given category in order to qualify for certification for the USDA label. Products in categories for which minimum biobased content requirements have not yet been established by USDA must contain at least 25% biobased content.

To receive the label, a product must go through an initial screening by the USDA and be tested using the ASTM D6866 test method to verify the percent biobased content. The USDA BioPreferred website has information on how to apply for the label.

Provisions in 2018 Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm bill extended the $3 million per year mandatory funding authorization for BioPreferred through 2023 and authorized an additional $3 million per year in discretionary funding through 2023. [Section 9002(k)] The 2018 Farm Bill also:

  • Directs the USDA Secretary to transfer the administration of BioPreferred from Departmental Management to USDA’s Office of Rural Development. [Section 9002(m)]
  • Directs the USDA Secretary to establish guidelines for an integrated and expedited process by which biobased products can be determined eligible for Federal Procurement preference and approved for the ‘‘USDA Certified Biobased Product’’ label. Allows review of a biobased product under the integrated qualification process to be initiated on receipt of a recommendation or petition from a manufacturer, vendor, or other interested party. [Section 9002(h)]
  • Directs the USDA Secretary and the Secretary of Commerce to jointly develop North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes for—
    •  (A) renewable chemicals manufacturers; and
    • (B) biobased products manufacturers. [Section 9002(f)(1)]
  • Prohibits federal procuring agencies from establishing more restrictive regulations, guidance, or criteria regarding the procurement of biobased products than the limitations established by the USDA Secretary under the BioPreferred program. [Section 9002(i)]
  • Directs the USDA Secretary to update criteria for determining which renewable chemicals may qualify to receive the ‘‘USDA Certified Biobased Product’’ label. [Section 9002 (b)(2)(A)(iii)] The term “renewable chemical” is defined as meaning “a monomer, polymer, plastic, formulated product, or chemical substance produced from renewable biomass.” [Section 9001(14)]