ISU Tapped to Develop National Biobased Products Evaluation Program

October 1st, 2002

AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University has entered into a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a national program for biobased products evaluation, labeling and outreach. The program will be funded at a level of $900,000 per year and will be coordinated by the Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS).

Biobased products are made from renewable materials grown in farm fields, coastal waters and managed forests. These resources can replace petroleum-based materials used in industrial and commercial products.

Examples include lubricants, plastics or adhesives made from soybeans and building products made from cornstalks.

"The 21st century will see many petroleum-derived products replaced with less expensive, better performing biobased products," said Wolfgang Kliemann, associate vice provost for research. "Developing a biobased industry in Iowa can give a significant boost to our state's economy and, at the same time, contribute to national security and environmental quality in the U.S."

Funding for the program was authorized by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (the farm bill) developed by the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, which Iowa Senator Tom Harkin chairs.

"The farm bill's biobased product initiatives will boost Iowa's agriculture industry, bring investment to our rural communities and help meet our environmental goals. I am delighted ISU has been chosen by USDA to carry out these provisions since the university is a global leader in the bioeconomy and well-situated to take on this important work," Harkin said.

The farm bill establishes a program in federal agencies for preferred procurement of biobased products. USDA will issue proposed guidelines for use by federal agencies in meeting the procurement requirement. CIRAS will set up systems so that biobased products can be tested according to specified protocols for biobased content, life-cycle costs and environmental effect.

To lay the foundation of the procurement program, CIRAS will do the following.

Develop a management information system to track and audit required information from manufacturers on the tests performed on their biobased products to meet preferred procurement status.

Establish the capability for testing biobased products and develop protocols and procedures to expand the capacity to test products.

Develop a management system and funding mechanism for long-term program operation. Cost-shared funds may be made available to support required testing for biobased product certification and for additional performance testing.

Implement an outreach program to inform manufacturers, federal procurement officials and the public about USDA Certified Biobased Products labeling and how they might qualify products for preferred status.

"The Web-based management information system, audit system and test research conducted as part of this effort will enable federal agencies to more easily identify and procure quality biobased products," said Ronald Cox, CIRAS director. "Information dissemination will speed up development of new products and markets for agricultural and forest products."

CIRAS is part of Iowa State University Extension. It provides Iowa's manufacturers assistance in identifying industrial problems and gaining access to current technical information.

The biobased products evaluation program emphasizes core research and outreach strengths of Iowa State, Kliemann said.

"It dovetails with the bioeconomy initiative, one of the five broad scientific initiatives announced last month by President Geoffroy," Kliemann said. "The goal of the initiative is to accelerate the use of plants and agricultural crops to produce chemicals, fuels, materials and energy to decrease reliance on imported petroleum, reduce the impact on the environment and enhance rural development by creating new markets for crops and products manufactured in the U.S."


Wolfgang Kliemann, Office of Vice Provost, (515) 294-6344

Ronald Cox, CIRAS, (515) 294-3420

Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778

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