USDA Biobased Labeling Program
In 2012, a labeling system was added to the USDA's BioPreferred program that allows manufacturers of USDA-registered biobased products to use a "USDA Certified Biobased Product" label on their packaging. But the USDA's interpretation of the original legislation excludes "mature markets," or those that have been in existence before 1972 (such as cotton shirts or towels, paper and paperboard, and even wooden furniture).
Even though the USDA asserts that the label is not a statement of “environmental benefit,” the public is likely to perceive labeled products as environmentally preferable and/or superior to those lacking the stamp. The result is that products with as little as 25 percent biobased content can be included in these programs while forest products such as paper and paperboard—some containing as much as 100 percent biobased materials—are ineligible. This clearly contradicts the law’s intent to encourage “the purchase of products with the maximum biobased content.”
In response to complaints, the USDA has recently suggested rewording the language to, “new and emerging markets for biobased products,” but this verbiage also does not provide certainty that forest products would be included in the program.
In conjunction with other associations and companies, PPC supports the recently filed Forest Products Fairness Act, which is designed to correct the current phrasing of this program. PPC believes that Congress should clarify that forest products, as biobased materials, are indeed eligible for the BioPreferred program.
What Can I Do?
Call your local representatives and ask them to support the Forest Products Fairness Act (S. 2346 and H.R. 5873). Explain to them that forest products such as paperboard meet that criterion in almost every instance and that the way the program, as currently written, has created a market disadvantage for our industry and in some cases, has provided a preference for imported products.