If a new program initiated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture goes into full effect, the Federal Government could substantially increase its use of biofuels, and other biobased products, as long as comparable, fossil fuel-based options do not cost substantially less.Washington, D.C. – January 14, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced the publication of a proposed rule to implement a preferred procurement program for biobased products by federal agencies. “This builds upon President Bush’s commitment to promoting energy independence while protecting the environment,” said Veneman. “This program will improve environmental health by using renewable resources from our farms and forests to produce products that have been previously derived from fossil energy sources. This program will enhance the development of high performing and environmentally friendly products.” The Federal Biobased Procurement Program was authorized by Section 9002 of the 2002 Farm Bill. When fully implemented, the program will require federal agencies to greatly increase their use of biobased industrial products. That increase is expected to contribute to the development of a broad range of new biobased products. Agencies will be required to purchase biobased industrial products whenever their cost is not substantially higher than fossil energy based alternatives, when biobased industrial products are available and when biobased industrial products meet the performance requirements of the federal user. The proposed rule details the process by which the Department of Agriculture will designate “items,” which are generic groupings of similar biobased products, such as hydraulic and transmission fluids. To designate an item, USDA must obtain and make available information such as availability, relative price, performance, and environmental and public health benefits for the items and biobased materials designated for preferred procurement. Items will be designated through subsequent regulations. Once an item is designated, every manufacturer and vendor producing and marketing products contained within that item are eligible for preferred procurement status when marketing their products to federal agencies. Manufacturers must certify that the biobased content in their products is consistent with the statutory definition of biobased products. They must also certify that they have had third-party testing of the biobased content. USDA is seeking comments on this proposed rule from all interested parties during a 60-day comment period. The rule is scheduled to be in Federal Register and is be posted at the link below.