Biobased Markets Program: Congressmen Express Concern

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On August 13, Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pennsylvania), Chair of the House Conservation, Energy and Forestry Subcommittee, and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon), a member of that Subcommittee, sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressing their concern about USDA’s implementation of its Biobased Markets Program, which establishes a federal procurement preference and voluntary labeling program for what it defines as “biobased products.”

They point out that, although the enabling legislation does not provide any limitation for the participation of forest products, USDA’s implementation excludes what it calls “market mature” products, setting up an unfair competitive environment.

They note that USDA has proposed to replace this “mature market” exclusion with criteria that focus the program on what it calls “new and emerging markets for biobased products,” but observe that this term likewise provides little certainty that forest products would be included.

Earlier this year, Rep. Thompson introduced the Forest Products Fairness Act (HR 5873), with Rep. Schrader’s support, and the House Agriculture Committee approved it with bipartisan support.  This bill (S 2346 in the Senate) would make clear that conventional forest products are to be included.