Despite the wide-spread popularity of all things “green,” there are still not enough products on the market to do tasks like clean our homes and businesses that do not contain harsh chemicals and petroleum. Clearly, something needs to be done to increase biobased products. Enter President Obama’s presidential memorandum, issued on February 24, 2012, which directs federal agencies to “significantly increase” procurement of biobased products. Federal agencies are specifically directed to increase both the number of categories of biobased products designated and individual products eligible for preferred purchasing by 50 percent within a year of the date of the memorandum.
The BioPreferred Program was established in 2002 by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, and strengthened in 2008 by the Food Conservation and Energy Act. The intention of the BioPreferred Program is to “promote rural economic development, create new jobs, and provide new markets for farm commodities,” according to the memorandum.” The goal of the memorandum is to ensure that the federal government “effectively execute” the procurement requirements of the BioPreferred Program.
The memorandum directs agencies to take certain steps to increase the purchase of biobased products, including the following:
- Ensure that 95 percent of applicable new contract actions for products and services advance sustainable acquisition, including biobased acquisition.
- Include acquisition of biobased products in their Affirmative Procurement Programs and Preferable Purchasing Programs
- Include biobased products in their procurement procurement review and monitoring program
- The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is directed to emphasize biobased purchasing in the fiscal year 2012 and 2013 Sustainability/Energy scorecard, which evaluates agency performance on sustainable acquisition.
The USDA already designated 64 categories of biobased products for the BioPreferred Program. The 64 categories represent an estimated 9,000 individual products. However, less than half o the known biobased products are currently in the program. “Increasing the number of products subject to the Federal procurement preference will increase procurement of biobased products,” the memorandum stated.
“Biobased and sustainable products help to increase our energy security and independence,” Obama stated in the memorandum. “Biobased products are creating jobs across America. These innovative products are creating new markets for agriculture and expanding opportunities in rural America.”
Help for small businesses
The majority of biobased product manufacturers and vendors that sell products to the federal government are small businesses. The memorandum directs steps to help small businesses who sell biobased products to the federal government. Those steps including the Secretary of Commerce consulting with the Secretary of Agriculture to use relevant programs of the Department, such as the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) network, to improve the performance and competitiveness of biobased product manufacturers. The MEP works with small and medium sized manufacturers.
The memorandum also directs that the Secretary of Agriculture develop training within six months of the date of the memorandum for small businesses on the BioPreferred program. The Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) is directed to “disseminate that training to Small Business Development Centers and feature it on the SBA website.”