WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced an initiative today to boost the biobased products industry to expand markets and create jobs. The “Grow it Here, Make it Here” initiative would increase access to capital for biobased manufacturers, improve marketing of biobased products, and further the commercialization of new agricultural innovations to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and create jobs.

“We all know that Ohio farmers put food on tables, grow feed for livestock, and fill the tanks of vehicles across the nation. But increasingly, Ohio farmers grow products that are turned into plastics, lubricants and chemicals,” Brown said. “Ohio already has what it takes to lead the nation in this emerging field: a skilled workforce, strong agricultural sector, and culture of manufacturing and innovation. The ‘Grow it Here, Make it Here’ initiative will give Ohio’s small towns and agricultural communities an unprecedented opportunity to develop new jobs and promote economic growth though the biobased industry.”

With nearly 130 Ohio companies already producing biobased products, Brown’s bill, introduced earlier this week, would support Ohio’s emerging biobased-manufacturing industry and encourage the development and manufacturing of new biobased products.

Brown was joined on today’s news conference call by Cathy Horton, founder of Nutek Green, a manufacturer of soy-based cleaning products and lubricants, and Allen Armstrong, a South Charleston farmer who sees biobased manufacturing as a new market and growth opportunity. Brown also released a county-by-county map of biobased manufacturers in Ohio.

“As the founder of Nutek Green, I am delighted to see that Senator Brown has taken a leadership role to support and improve the funding, commercialization and marketing needs of bio-based companies and entrepreneurs,” Horton said. “We are worthy of such support, and have not only brought jobs to Ohio and elsewhere, but have made a new and safe beginning for our State in an industry that holds much promise indeed.”  

Biobased products are composed wholly or significantly of biological ingredients—waste streams and renewable plant, animal, marine, or forestry materials.  From natural pet foods and biobased paint, to soy ink and toner, these companies are creating jobs in Ohio’s small towns and rural communities, and generating a link between agriculture and manufacturing.

Brown’s bill consists of three parts:

  • Strengthens the “Biopreferred Program,” which certifies and labels products so consumers can choose to purchase goods made of agriculture materials, and provides a preference for these products for government purchases. USDA’s Biopreferred Program offers over 8,900 biobased products, including products made by 130 Ohio companies.
  • Spurs the commercialization of new agricultural innovations by streamlining and focusing resources to help new biobased projects move from the development to the commercialization phase. Your initiative focuses the USDA’s Biomass Research and Development Initiative on the commercialization of biobased products—bridging this gap to help accelerate the biobased industry.
  • Increases access to capital for bio-based manufacturers by expanding the USDA’s Biorefinery Loan Guarantee Program, so biobased manufacturers have access to loans to help finance new operations or expand existing ones.

In September 2011, Brown held a roundtable with business leaders, students, and farmers at the Ohio State University— as part of his “Grown in Ohio” Listening Tour—to discuss the potential of Ohio’s biobased industry. In July 2010, Brown invited Denny Hall, a sixth-generation farmer from Union County and the assistant director of the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center (OBIC) to testify before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry at a hearing to examine how biobased manufacturing can create jobs in rural Ohio.

Brown has held more than 200 roundtables throughout the state, and is the first Ohioan to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 40 years and the first Ohioan ever to serve simultaneously on the Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee. Agriculture is Ohio’s largest industry.