USDA is investing $9.5 million in the development of new bioproducts from agricultural products | Daily News Byte

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Special to The Banner News

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced a $9.5 million investment to support the expansion of sustainable bio-based production in the United States. Three successful projects were funded through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Bioproducts Pilot Program, which funds research and development of value-added agricultural products.

Authorized and funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Bioproduct Pilot Program presents a unique opportunity to stimulate economic activity in rural areas of the country while simultaneously reducing the commercialization risks associated with bringing biobased products to market. The bioproducts research program accelerates USDA’s efforts to develop circular bioeconomies, where agricultural resources are harvested, consumed and renewed in a sustainable manner. This pilot program also supports the goals outlined in President Biden’s recent Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing for a Sustainable, Safe and Secure American Bioeconomy.

“Adopting a more circular economy ensures that wealth and other economic benefits in the form of jobs and other opportunities are created and remain in rural communities,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We need to support and encourage practices like this, because that’s what consumers want – and what farmers and our planet need.”

The three awarded are:

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, for a project that proposes converting food waste into a biodegradable polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA)-based bioplastic that can be used for a variety of consumer plastics, including flexible and rigid packaging and food and beverage containers.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, for a project that proposes turning pig manure and other organic raw materials into asphalt biobinders that enhance the quality of recycled asphalt pavements. If commercialized, benefits include reduced landfill waste, reduced asphalt and food waste disposal costs, and low-cost products.

Soilei Innovations, of Ames, Iowa, for a project that proposes the transformation of high-oleic soybean oil into a thermoplastic rubber for pavements, which has the potential to extend the life of repairs for existing surfaces. Low-cost paving solutions are especially important in rural and underserved communities where paving and road maintenance budgets are underfunded due to reliance on local tax revenues.

“Each of the recommended projects involves collaborations with universities and companies that can bridge the gap between invention and the market, and produce stronger and more efficient results,” said Dr. Dionne Toombs, acting director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the agency which administers the awards. “All three also have compelling benefits that advance environmental justice and foster economic opportunity for underserved communities.”

Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden in November 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a transformative, historic investment for America in rebuilding our nation’s physical infrastructure, growing the economy for decades to come, creating good-paying union jobs, and better position the US to compete in the global economy.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans in many positive ways every day. Under the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming the U.S. food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, and building new markets and income streams for farmers and producers that employ climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices, making historic investments in clean energy infrastructure and capacity in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

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