Stabenow bill aims to boost biobased products

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, March 5- Biobased product manufacturers located in the U.S. could get tax breaks and new incentives to boost production if “Grow it Here, Make it Here,” legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and other co-sponsors is enacted into law.


“When we grow things and make things here, we create jobs here,” Chairwoman Stabenow said. “In Michigan over 80 years ago, Henry Ford discovered how to use agriculture products in manufacturing his automobiles. Today, innovators are again making things with homegrown products. This initiative will help businesses who want to invest and create new jobs here in America."

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Chairwoman Stabenow's bill would increase access to capital for biobased manufacturers, improve marketing of bio-based products, spur the commercialization of new agricultural innovations, and strengthen USDA's Biopreferred Program by providing better transparency and accountability, according to her Chief of Staff, Chris Adamo.


“I'd like to be able to say that, one day, we will have biorefineries all over the U.S. just like we have oil refineries,” explained Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Executive VP Brent Erickson explained. “Farmers will take their crops and crop waste and they will be turned into biofuels, bioplastics and renewable chemicals.”


Erickson said the legislation will help create a “robust biobased economy” in this country, which will generate a lot of new jobs. As of 2010, the biobased products industry employed more than 50,000 people and “that sector can generate tens of thousands of new jobs over the next five years,” Erickson added.


Last year, Chairwoman Stabenow introduced the first piece of her Grow it Here, Make it Here initiative, a bill that would allow only U.S.-based manufacturing companies to qualify for up to a 30% tax credit to help finance investments in new, expanded, or re-equipped bio-based manufacturing, creating new jobs.


This most recent version of the legislation, which supporters hope to include in the 2012 Farm Bill, would also:


·         Strengthens the Biopreferred Program which certifies and labels products so consumers can choose to purchase goods made of agriculture materials, and provides a preference for these products for government purchases. Her initiative also calls for greater accountability in the initiative, including auditing and compliance activities to ensure the integrity of the certified label. USDA's Biopreferred Program offers over 8,900 bio-based products.


·         Spurs the commercialization of new agricultural innovations by streamlining and focusing resources to help new bio-based projects move from the development to the commercialization phase, also known as the "valley of death" since far too many good ideas do not make it out of this phase. Her initiative focuses the USDA's Biomass Research and Development Initiative on the commercialization of bio-based products-bridging this gap to help accelerate the bio-based industry.


·         Increases access to capital for bio-based manufacturers by expanding the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Biorefinery Loan Guarantee Program, so bio-based manufacturers have access to loans to help finance new operations or expand existing ones.


The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Tom Carper (Delaware), Robert Casey (Pennsylvania), Chris Coons (Delaware), Kent Conrad (North Dakota), Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), and Jon Tester (Montana).


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