U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Angus King (I-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) today introduced the Forest Products Fairness Act, a bipartisan bill that provides new opportunities for American forestry producers by allowing their products to qualify for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred Program.
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 these products as a USDA Certified Biobased Products. 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 would also level 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.
“From farms to mills to manufacturers, it’s evident that the forestry industry is vital to Arkansas’s economy,” Pryor said. “By allowing these home-grown companies to expand and compete on same playing field as their international counterparts, our bipartisan bill will build on their success and keep this industry growing.”
“Forestry is an important economic driver in rural Missouri and nationwide,” Blunt said. “I’m glad to support this bipartisan bill, which will help increase economic opportunities for job creators and help our forestry producers compete in a competitive global economy.”
“Many Arkansas jobs depend on our renewable forest resources and the forest products industry and we need to end the discrimination in federal policy against these American jobs,” Boozman said. “This commonsense bill will provide domestically produced forest products with the same label and treatment as imported biobased products.”
“Maine is one of the most forested states in the nation and our forest-based industry plays an instrumental role in the vitality of our state’s economy,” said King. “By finally labeling forest products as what they truly are – biobased products – this bipartisan, common-sense measure will level the playing field for Maine’s foresters and help them to continue thriving in the global economy.”
“From timber to paper and pulp, Maine’s vast forest land is a tremendous source of value for our state’s economy and way of life,” Collins said. “I strongly support this bill because it would help dramatically expand the market for our domestic forest products by rightfully creating a level playing field with other biobased and foreign products.”
“In today’s economic climate, it is vital that we ensure Idaho’s industries are not at a competitive disadvantage due to a misinterpretation of terms,” Crapo said. “Legislation like the Forest Products Fairness Act makes it easier for the forest industry to compete in the global market place and bring economic growth and jobs to Idaho.”
“This bill takes an important step toward creating a level playing field for American businesses trying to compete with their overseas competitors,” Hatch said. “It’s a cost-free way to increase the use and awareness of domestic forestry products in a way that’s good for the economy.”
“As a family forest owner, I have seen the price of my sustainably grown product fall by half over the past few years. While times are tough, I now find products made from my sustainably produced wood cannot achieve USDA Certified Biobased Product label. However, a company importing materials from overseas would be recognized. Now is not the time to put Americans at a market disadvantage,” said Colton Churchill, a certified Tree Farmer from Arkansas.
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. Since the program’s inception, the USDA has designated more 33 items, representing nearly 3,000 products, as biobased products.