U.S. Senators introduce Forest Products Fairness Act; legislation would allow domestic forestry products to qualify for USDA's BioPreferred Program, level the playing field with imported products such as Chinese bamboo

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas , April 26, 2012 (press release) – U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) today introduced legislation that would open new opportunities for American forestry producers by allowing their products to qualify for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred Program.

Pryor and Blunt said the USDA BioPreferred Program was created to provide new markets for farm commodities and encourage consumers to purchase environmentally-friendly biobased products. Despite the sustainability of wood, pulp and paper products, the USDA has not designated such products as a USDA Certified Biobased Product. The Forest Products Fairness Act would allow domestic forestry products to be labeled as biobased so they could receive increased consumer attention as well as federal government procurement preference. This designation levels the playing field between domestically-produced wood products and imported products such as Chinese bamboo, which is already eligible for the biobased label and used as a “green” alternative for hardwood flooring or lumber.

“Wood is the original biobased product, made entirely from water, sunlight and air. This industry – consisting of tree families, farmers, mills and manufacturers across the state – is vital to our economy,” Pryor said. “I want to make sure their success continues, which means allowing these home-grown companies to expand and compete on the same level playing field as their international counterparts. Our bill is an equalizer.”

“Under this program, American forestry producers will have more opportunities to increase consumer demand for environmentally-friendly biobased wood products,” Blunt said. “The domestic forestry industry is an important economic engine in rural Missouri and nationwide. I’m proud to work with Senator Pryor on bipartisan legislation that bolsters marketing opportunities for these local job creators and helps them compete in an increasingly competitive global economy.”

“The Forest Products Fairness Act will go a long way towards helping to conserve Arkansas working forests and keep Tree Farmers such as myself, on the land. As an Arkansas Tree Farmer certified by the American Tree Farm System, my wood products are grown sustainably and are made into products that benefit the environment while sustaining rural jobs. The Act recognizes this and allows my products to be recognized by USDA as biobased, ensuring my products can be used by the federal government and can be sold as “biobased” to consumers,” said Tom Crowder of the American Forest Foundation.

The BioPreferred Program was originally created by the 2002 Farm Bill to increase the purchase and use of biobased products. Under the program, every federal agency is required to rank their preference of biobased products for purchasing decisions. To increase consumer recognition of biobased products, the program also created voluntary labeling, similar to USDA’s organic label and Energy Star. Since the program’s inception, the USDA has designated more 33 items, representing nearly 3,000 products, as biobased products. These products include cleaners, lubricants, building materials, insulation, roof coatings, fuel additives, and other sustainable industrial materials.

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