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Obama announces bio-based product boost in rural areas

The Obama administration announced it will attempt to boost the economy in rural areas by increasing the government's purchase of bio-based products, creating a national competition for about $15 million in funding for private housing, community facilities and community development projects, and supporting training for information technology workers at rural hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other officials made the announcements Tuesday in a call to reporters arranged by the White House.

President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum for the directives to take effect.

“My administration is committed to using every tool available to promote economic growth and create good jobs in rural America," Obama said in a statement obviously intended for re-election appeal."

"Today’s announcements reflect our continued focus on expanding opportunity for rural Americans and all Americans, including supporting new and innovative businesses, and improving rural health care and education," Obama said. "And the actions we’re taking today are possible thanks to the feedback and ideas I’ve received from hardworking Americans across rural America, including the participants at the White House Rural Economic Forum.”

The Biobased Products Coalition praised the directive. The coalition, whose members range from the American Soybean Association and Archer Daniels Midland to the National Farmers Union, noted that the directive:
  • Requires federal agencies to include goals and milestones for bio-based purchasing in their strategic sustainability performance plans.
  • Includes bio-based purchasing in the scorecard that the Office of Management and Budget uses to rate agencies' sustainability and energy performance.
  • Directs a 50 percent increase in the number of new product categories that are designated by USDA as bio-based for preferred federal purchasing.
  • Requires new public reporting of federal agencies' bio-based product purchasing.
  • Requires federal agencies to sample and verify that bio-based products are being included in purchasing contracts, identified in purchasing catalogs, and integrated in product specifications and contracting procedures.
  • Directs the implementation of new bio-based purchasing training, education, and outreach efforts to federal buyers.
  • Provides assistance to small businesses to improve the selling of biobased products and services to the Federal Government.
  • Directs the secretary of Agriculture to prepare a report to the president on job creation and the economic impact associated with the bio-based products industry.