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New coalition wants federal government to buy bio-based products

The federal government is the single largest consumer in the United States, purchasing roughly $400 billion in products and services each year. A newly formed coalition is pushing for more of those purchases to include home-grown bio-based products.

The coalition, which was announced today, is calling itself the Alliance for a Biobased Economy (ABE). It includes agricultural, environmental, national security and consumer groups such as the National Corn Growers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Consumers Federation of America, National Farmers Union, Natural Resources Defense Council, Set America Free Coalition and others.

ABE will be pushing for the government to purchase a range of items made from farm-based materials, including industrial oils and lubricants, carpet, ceiling tiles, cups and bowls for eating and drinking, printing ink, and building insulation. Use of these and other bio-based products, the group says, increases demand for agricultural materials while displacing large amounts of foreign oil needed to produce petroleum products.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today applauded the new coalition and its efforts. "Looking to America's Heartland to meet our energy needs is just the beginning," he said. "We can replace many oil derived products with things made from materials home-grown on America's farms. Greater use of bio-based products will be a big boost for our national security, the environment, and the rural economy."

Harkin co-authored provisions in the 2002 farm bill that call for the federal government to give preference to purchasing bio-based products if they are available, perform well, and are reasonably priced. Despite delays, earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued its final rule designating the first six items to which federal agencies must give preference in purchasing with many more items likely to be designated within the year.

"I'm thrilled to have widespread support to make increased purchase of bio-based items a reality," said Harkin. "This broad coalition shows the tangible and far reaching benefits biobased products will have for the United States. As bio-based products gain momentum, we'll ensure these benefits become a reality for millions of farmers, consumers, and citizens around the country."

The federal government is the single largest consumer in the United States, purchasing roughly $400 billion in products and services each year. A newly formed coalition is pushing for more of those purchases to include home-grown bio-based products.

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