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February 15, 2024

USDA Proposes Streamlined Regulation for Biobased Markets (BioPreferred) Program

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBCS), an agency of the Rural Development mission area within U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), issued a proposed rule on January 24, 2024, that would adopt changes from the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill). 89 Fed. Reg. 4770. The changes include merging the Guidelines for Designating Biobased Products for Federal Procurement (7 C.F.R. Part 3201) and the Voluntary Labeling Program for Biobased Products (7 C.F.R. Part 3202) into one streamlined regulation, Biobased Markets (BioPreferred) Program. Comments are due March 25, 2024.

The legacy rules established the two core initiatives of the BioPreferred Program. Part 3201 detailed the rules for the procurement of biobased products by federal agencies and their contractors, established the process for designating categories of biobased products for preferred federal procurement, maintained the list of designated product categories, and outlined the requirements for biobased products to qualify for preferred federal procurement. Part 3202 established the rules for manufacturers and vendors of biobased products to become certified to use the USDA Certified Biobased Product Label (Label) and provided rules for maintaining certification and utilizing the Label. The proposed rule would merge the legacy rules into one streamlined regulation at Part 4270 to facilitate the objective of the BioPreferred Program, which is to encourage the increased use of biobased products in all market sectors. Additionally, RBCS states that it believes these changes will benefit BioPreferred Program Stakeholders by implementing process improvements and tying the two initiatives more closely together, making it easier to qualify for both initiatives.

The proposed rule would amend several definitions, including biobased product, which would be amended to include renewable chemicals, as directed by Section 9002 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (Pub. L. 107–171). The definition of biobased product would be amended to clarify that, for the purposes of the BioPreferred Program, the term does not include motor vehicle fuels, heating oils, or electricity. RBCS states that motor vehicle fuels, heating oils, and electricity have always been excluded from participating in the BioPreferred Program by statute, and that it believes adding this clarification to the definition of biobased product will allow interested parties to find these exclusions more easily.