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February 23, 2012

Presidential Memorandum Calls for Increased Federal Procurement of Biobased Products

The ACTA Group

President Obama signed a February 21, 2012, memorandum entitled “Driving Innovation and Creating Jobs in Rural America through Biobased and Sustainable Product Procurement.” The BioPreferred Program, which was established by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (2002 Farm Bill) and amended by the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill), is intended to increase federal procurement of biobased products, which will promote rural economic development, create new jobs, and provide new markets for farm commodities. According to the memorandum, the federal government, with leadership from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), has made significant strides in implementing the BioPreferred Program. The goal of the Presidential memorandum is to ensure that agencies effectively execute federal procurement requirements for biobased products. The memorandum is available online.

The memorandum directs agencies to take a number of steps intended to increase federal procurement of biobased and other sustainable products. Below are some of the steps described in the memorandum:

  • Section 1. Actions Related to Executive Order (EO) 13514 of October 5, 2009 (“Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance): As required by EO 13514 Section 2(h), agencies shall ensure that 95 percent of applicable new contract actions for products and services advance sustainable acquisition, including biobased acquisition, where such products and services meet agency performance requirements.
  • Section. 2. Biobased Product Designations: USDA has already designated 64 categories of biobased products for preferred federal procurement, representing an estimated 9,000 individual products. To increase the number of products subject to the federal procurement preference, the Secretary of Agriculture is directed to:
    1. Increase both the number of categories of biobased products designated and individual products eligible for preferred purchasing by 50 percent within one year of the date of this memorandum; and
    2. Establish a web-based process whereby biobased product manufacturers can request USDA to establish a new product category for designation.
  • Section 3. Changes in Procurement Mechanisms: Several actions can be taken to facilitate improvement in and compliance with the requirements to purchase biobased products.
  • Section 4. Small Business Assistance: A majority of the biobased product manufacturers and vendors selling biobased products and services that use biobased products to the federal government are small businesses. To improve the ability of small businesses to sell these products and services to the federal government, the memorandum directs:
    1. The Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, to use relevant programs, such as the Manufacturing Extension Partnership network, to improve the performance and competitiveness of biobased product manufacturers;
    2. The Secretary of Agriculture to work cooperatively with Procurement Technical Assistance Center programs to provide training and assistance to biobased product companies to make these companies aware of the BioPreferred Program and opportunities to sell biobased products to federal, state, and local government agencies; and
    3. The Secretary of Agriculture to develop training within six months of the date of this memorandum for small businesses on the BioPreferred Program and the opportunities it presents, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to disseminate that training to Small Business Development Centers and feature it on the SBA website.
  • Section 5. Reporting: The federal government should obtain the most reliable information to gauge its progress in purchasing biobased products, including measuring the annual number of procurements that include direct purchase of biobased products, the annual number of construction and service contracts that include the purchase of biobased products, and the annual volume and type of biobased products purchased.
  • Section 6. Jobs Creation Research: Biobased products are creating jobs across America, as well as new markets for agriculture and expanding opportunities in rural America. Therefore, the memorandum directs the Secretary of Agriculture to prepare a report on job creation and the economic impact associated with the biobased product industry to be submitted to the President through the Domestic Policy Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) within two years of the date of this memorandum.
  • Section 7. Education and Outreach: In compliance with the 2002 Farm Bill, several agencies established agency promotion programs to support the biobased products procurement preference. The Federal Acquisition Institute has added biobased procurement training to its course offerings. To assure both formal and informal educational and outreach instruction on the BioPreferred Program are in place and being implemented by each agency, the memorandum directs:
    1. The Secretary of Agriculture to update all existing USDA BioPreferred and related sustainable acquisition training materials within one year of the date of this memorandum;
    2. The Senior Sustainability Officers and Chief Acquisition Officers of agencies to work cooperatively with the Secretary of Agriculture to implement immediately such BioPreferred Program agency education and outreach programs as are necessary to meet the requirements of this memorandum and relevant statutes; and
    3. The Secretary of Agriculture to work actively with the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled to promote education and outreach to program, technical, and contracting personnel, and to purchase card holders on BioPreferred AbilityOne products.