USDA Announces Inclusion of Wood Products in Bio-Preferred Program

The Action Implements Thompson’s Forest Product Fairness Act Included as Part of the 2014 Farm Bill

CORRY – On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a final rule eliminating the restrictions on including mature market wood products in the USDA’s Bio-Preferred program.

The action implements legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-5), commonly known as the Forest Products Fairness Act. It was included as part of the final 2014 Farm Bill and signed into law on Feb. 7.

“The rule announced by USDA is positive news and an important step forward for the Bio-Preferred program,” stated Thompson, chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy & Forestry.

“These changes allow U.S. forest producers to compete on a level playing field and will create new market opportunities for our domestic forestry industry. I look forward to working with USDA as the department implements these and other important reforms enacted under the 2014 Farm Bill.”

“The inclusion of innovative wood products furthers our commitment to strengthening the bio-based economy and ensures that the Federal government uses home American grown products whenever possible,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack of the announcement.

The Forest Products Fairness Act, initially introduced by Thompson in 2012, modifies the definition of “bio-based product” under the Bio-Preferred program, to include forest products, which were previously excluded.

The purpose of the Bio-Preferred program, which was created in 2002, is to promote the increased purchase and use of bio-based products, through a preferred procurement initiative for Federal agencies, and a voluntary consumer label, which is designed to promote broad-scale marketing of bio-based products to consumers.

However, under previous USDA Guidelines for the program products considered to be “mature market” products – those that had a significant market share prior to 1972 – were ineligible.

Unfortunately, the domestic forest products industry has encountered substantial economic losses over the last decade, in part due to the slumping housing market. Despite this fact, the program has created a market disadvantage for environmentally-friendly and domestically-produced bio-based forest products, and in many cases, gives preference to foreign-made products.

The 2014 Farm Bill required the Bio-Preferred program to “promote bio-based products, including forest products, that apply an innovative approach to growing, harvesting, sourcing, procuring, processing, manufacturing, or application of bio-based products regardless of the date of entry into the marketplace.”

USDA’s final rule will allow traditional bio-based products, including forest products, to be eligible for the Bio-Preferred program.

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