White House announcement troubling for forestry markets
By: Melissa Moeller
American Forest Foundation
Yesterday, President Obama announced plans to escalate the federal government's procurement of "bio-based" products, and Chairwoman Stabenow of the Senate Agriculture Committee announced a new Grow it Here, Make it Here initiative. Sound like good news for wood markets? Maybe not.
Both announcements reference the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) BioPreferred Program, which currently excludes most forest products.
Tom Martin, American Forest Foundation (AFF) president and CEO said, "We applaud the Administration's efforts to increase the use of agriculture products and jobs in rural communities, but we need a guarantee that this effort will include forest products." Read a joint statement from AFF and the Hardwood Federation.
Problems with the BioPreferred program:
BioPreferred is a program from the Farm Bill. The goal of the program is to increase the purchase and use of biobased products.
As they have rolled out the BioPreferred program, USDA has excluded most forest products, claiming the program was intended for "new" products and forest products aren't "new". In some cases, the BioPreferred program even offers incentives for products that directly compete with wood products. For example, some bamboo flooring products (likely imported) are recognized as "biobased" but competing American-made hardwood flooring does not get the label.
Where does the BioPreferred program show up?
In the marketplace - Some products that compete with wood can get a USDA BioPreferred label that is then marketed to consumers, giving them a leg up in the marketplace. (How often you see USDA Organic labels in the grocery store?)
In the Federal Government - The federal government is encouraged to purchase and use USDA BioPreferred products.
In the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED 2012 Proposal - USGBC is proposing to give a point to USDA BioPreferred products in the new LEED 2012 rating system.
This is yet another in a list of policies that discourage the use of wood products. While USDA worked with us to change their green building policy---and even promote wood---we still have work to do to fix the USDA BioPreferred program.
Markets are an important tool for Tree Farmers. Without markets, family forest owners find it difficult to keep their forests as forests. Markets not only mean good on-the-ground management, markets also mean jobs. Since 2005, the forest products industry has lost 322,000 jobs.
Opportunities to Take Action:
On March 1, the public comment period opens for the new LEED 2012 standards. We will provide grasstops leaders and Tree Farm committee leaders with background information and guidance to submit comments.
The BioPreferred program will be a hot topic in the upcoming Farm Bill hearings. Stay tuned for opportunities to talk about the issue with agriculture committee members.
The Georgia Forestry Association is the leading advocate for a healthy business and political climate for Georgia's forest environment, forest landowners and forest-based businesses.
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