The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

USDA reveals new bio-based product label

Products made of “wholly or significantly biological ingredients — renewable plant, animal, marine or forestry materials” will be eligible for a USDA-certified bio-based label under a rule to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced Wednesday.

The label will allow consumers help promote the sale of bio-based products, Merrigan said in a news conference. “People like me can stop purposely and provide incentives to the private market,” Merrigan said, noting that she would be a customer for a bio-based lip moisturizer. Cleaning products, sheets, towels and lubricants are examples of other bio-based products that could be labeled.

Merrigan noted that Congress gave USDA the authority to set up the labeling program in the 2008 farm bill. A program to encourage federal agencies to buy bio-based products is already in place, she said, but the label will encourage sales to the much larger market.

“These products have enormous potential to create green jobs in rural communities, add value to agricultural commodities, decrease environmental impacts, and reduce our dependence on imported oil,” Merrigan said in a news release.

Products need only be 25 percent bio-based to warrant the label, but the percentage might be increased in the future, she said. USDA initially proposed a higher percentage, but Merrigan said the agency settled on 25 percent to make sure there would be enough products for a significant markets.

She compared the bio-based label to the USDA-certified organic label. She helped write the organic standards law when she worked for the Senate Agriculture Committee, and that label caused in a surge in organic sales, she said.

Applicants for the label will submit certain kinds of information, Merrigan said, and USDA will contract with ASTM International, an independent certifying agency, which will arrange for testing with laboratories.

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