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USDA outlines vision to strengthen the American bioeconomy

USDA outlines vision to strengthen the American bioeconomy
Biomass is organic material that comes from crop residues, agricultural and food wastes, forest residuals, livestock, as well as biomass crops that are grown specifically as feedstocks to produce biobased products (image courtesy USDA).

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a plan that aims to boost biomass supply chain resiliency for domestic biobased product manufacturing, while also advancing environmental sustainability and market opportunities for small and mid-sized producers.

The report — Building a Resilient Biomass Supply: A Plan to Enable the Bioeconomy in America — is one of the key USDA deliverables of President Biden’s Executive Order 14081, which was issued in 2022 and defined bold goals and new priorities meant to catalyze action inside and outside of government to advance the American bioeconomy.

The increasing demand for biomass is a golden opportunity to expand markets and create new revenue for American farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners, particularly in rural areas. We are proud to support President Biden’s commitment to advance America’s domestic bioeconomy and ultimately create new markets and jobs. This comprehensive roadmap will strengthen our production and preprocessing systems to provide incentives for producers and manufacturers so that biomass can be used to fuel the American bioeconomy, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Council meeting in Washington, DC.

Biomass is organic material that comes from crop residues, agricultural and food wastes, forest residuals, livestock, as well as biomass crops that are grown specifically as feedstocks to produce biobased products.

After harvest or collection, biomass can be used to make sustainable fuel, fibers, electricity, construction materials, plastics, insulation, personal care items, and many other biobased products.

Growing demand for biobased products

According to a recently published report by USDA’s BioPreferred Program, biobased products contributed US$489 billion to the US economy in 2021, a more than 5 percent increase from US$464 billion in 2020.

Driven by this clear and growing consumer demand for biobased products, USDA’s plan to support a resilient and responsibly sourced biomass supply chain furthers the Department’s commitment to developing a circular bioeconomy, where agricultural resources are harvested, consumed, and reused sustainably.

Adopting circular economies ensures that wealth and other economic benefits in the form of jobs and other opportunities are created in rural communities while also mitigating the effects of climate change and nature loss.

Abundant biomass supply

The plan finds that US biomass supplies are abundant. This positions the US to convert biomass into biobased products if improvements to biomass supply chain logistics and materials handling technology are made, and farmers are provided with incentives to produce biomass while reducing risk.

Among the plan’s recommendations are to research and deploy improved biomass crops, take advantage of woody biomass residuals, and help develop markets for biobased products through USDA’s BioPreferred Program.

Strengthening research and development, capacity building, and biomass market development will help bolster existing markets and catalyze new markets, said Dr Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics.

This plan provides a clear example of how working to achieve one goal can help move the needle on others.

Furthering the American bioeconomy goals moves us on USDA’s strategic goals of addressing climate change, protecting nature, advancing racial justice and rural prosperity, creating better market opportunities, and enhancing food security.

Published alongside the Plan is an Implementation Framework that identifies actions USDA will take next year to increase available cultivated biomass, invest in infrastructure for biobased products, and support the responsible development of the biomass supply chain.

USDA also released a fact sheet outlining the Department’s 2023 bioeconomy accomplishments, which include US$772 million in investments for research, development, and infrastructure involving biofuels, fertilizer production, crop innovations, biobased products, and more.

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