The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) BioPreferred® Program released a new report, An Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry (2018), that shows a growing bioeconomy leads to higher revenues, more jobs, innovative partnerships, and key environmental benefits. The report is the third in a series to examine and quantify the economic impact of the U.S. biobased products industry. It provides an update to past reports, and includes new information about biobased products exports.

The BioPreferred Program commissioned the report, which was prepared by researchers associated with Duke University, North Carolina State University, East Carolina University, and Louisiana Tech University. The report covers seven major sectors of the U.S. biobased products industry: Agriculture and Forestry, Biobased Chemicals, Bioplastic Bottles and Packaging, Biorefining, Enzymes, Forest Products, and Textiles.

Report Highlights

The report’s authors note that while there is no database that tracks the quantity of biobased products sold, they estimate that 40,000 would be a conservative estimate of the total number of existing biobased products. This estimate is dramatically higher than the 20,000 products in the BioPreferred Program’s database.

The new report provides an analysis of 2016 data and finds that the U.S. biobased products industry:

  • Employed 4.65 million people in 2016, an increase of 17% from 2014.
  • Contributed $459 billion of value to the U.S. economy in 2016, an increase of more than 10% from 2014.
  • Displaced the use of as much as 9.4 million barrels of oil equivalents in 2016.
  • Reduced up to 12.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents in 2016.
  • Exported products that supported an estimated 555 thousand U.S. jobs and $57 billion in value added to the U.S. economy.


The conclusions and recommendations are those of the authors and have not been endorsed by the USDA.

The authors’ key recommendations for consideration by USDA and other associated public and private sector organizations are the following:

  • Improve the ability of the Federal Government, including the General Services Administration and other acquisition departments of federal agencies, to track the purchase of biobased products in acquisition systems. Currently, there is not a singular way of doing so; and it is difficult to accurately determine the increases in the use of biobased products by the Federal Government.
  • Increase incentives to use biobased products and funding for research. Innovation is likely a key avenue for increasing the variety and efficacy of biobased products and fully utilizing biobased feedstocks. Many countries world-wide are investing in these technologies, and the U.S. should do so as well.
  • Increase opportunities for private sector and university collaboration through on-going the National Science Foundation (NSF), USDA, and Department of Energy (DOE) funding grants. Many of the biobased innovations available today began in university laboratories, and supporting the source of these important developments will be vitally important for enhancing the growth of the industry.
  • Expand marketing and consumer education of the BioPreferred Program’s USDA Certified Biobased Product label. Currently, many consumers are confused or are unaware of what a biobased product is; and they do not recognize or understand the label. While there are certainly benefits to having products labelled as USDA Certified Biobased, increased market recognition would help the biobased products industry grow and encourage more companies to pursue certification.
  • Leverage the similar goals between the USDA and the DOE to cooperate on increasing the purchase of biobased products. Both agencies have similar objectives in terms of growth and less reliance on nonrenewable resources, and research supported by both agencies can provide greater power and increased success.

Source: An Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry (2018), U.S. Department of Agriculture BioPreferred® Program