The 26,000 members of the American Soybean Association (ASA) have applauded the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for publication of a final rule to implement a program of preferred procurement of biobased products by federal agencies.

This final rule establishes provisions for the Federal Biobased Products Preferred Procurement Program, which requires all federal agencies to preferentially purchase biobased products that have been designated by USDA as eligible under this program.

"This rule promotes energy independence and the use of environmentally friendly renewable fuels like biodiesel made from soybeans," said ASA First Vice President Bob Metz, a soybean producer from West Browns Valley, S. Dakota. "This will create new demand for U.S. soybeans, and other agricultural commodities, and it will help create jobs and strengthen investment in rural economies."

The new rule establishes the process by which USDA will designate "items" for preferred procurement by federal agencies. Items are generic groupings of biobased products, such as biobased greases, biodiesel and ethanol when used as additives, hydraulic fluids, biobased polymers, industrial solvents, biobased fertilizers and cutting oils.

Federal agencies must assure within one year after the publication of this final rule that their procurement specifications require the preference of biobased products consistent with this rule.

"The Federal Biobased Products Preferred Procurement Program creates a preference for the purchase of biobased products across the entire federal government when such products are practical based on price, availability and performance," Metz said. "Biodiesel is a cleaner burning alternative to petroleum-based diesel. It works in any diesel engine with few or no modifications, and with passage of the new ASA-supported biodiesel tax incentive, biodiesel is now cost-competitive with petroleum-based diesel fuels."

USDA plans to soon begin issuing a series of proposed rules that will designate specific items for program eligibility. This process is expected to extend over the next three years.

Once an item is designated, all manufacturers with products that fall within that item may claim preferred procurement status for their products when marketing to federal agencies as long as the biobased content of their products is consistent with the statutory definition and meets the minimum levels specified in the designation rule.

While this program is still being implemented, many federal agencies are already incorporating biobased products in their acquisition orders.