Chairwoman Stabenow: Biobased Manufacturing is Creating Jobs and New Innovations in American Manufacturing

35 Biobased Innovators from 25 States Descend on Capitol Hill to Show Growing Strength in Manufacturing at ‘Grow It Here, Make It Here’ Hearing and Event

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today said that biobased companies are creating jobs across the country and helping to grow the economy through new innovations in manufacturing. Stabenow’s comments came during a Committee hearing that examined how companies are taking advantage of homegrown agriculture – instead of petroleum – to make new products, spurring a new wave in innovative manufacturing that’s growing the economy across the country.

Accompanying the ‘Grow It Here, Make It Here’ hearing, 35 biobased companies and organizations from 25 states (representing half of the country) had their work on display in the Kennedy Caucus Room and provided firsthand insights into how important biobased manufacturing has been in growing their manufacturing operations.

“More than 3,000 companies in the United States either manufacture or distribute biobased products,” Chairwoman Stabenow said. “And what does ‘bio based’ mean?  It means instead of using petroleum-based chemicals to manufacture products, companies are creating new products from American-grown agriculture crops like soybeans and corn. This shift toward using bio-degradable and renewable materials grown on farms here in the U.S. displaces the need for foreign-based petroleum, and helps to create American jobs.”

Chairwoman Stabenow said the Farm Bill is a jobs bill, and she emphasized that the Committee recognized early on the value of connecting agriculture with manufacturing when writing the bill, which was signed into law in February. The bill included critical biobased initiatives to help innovators leverage new resources to grow their manufacturing businesses, creating new jobs by harnessing the potential of American grown agriculture crops.  

“Earlier this year, we saw the work that began at this table make its way to the President’s desk. In that bill, we created new opportunities to support biobased manufacturing so innovators in both rural and urban America could continue growing their businesses, and creating manufacturing jobs. We recognized the connection between manufacturing and agriculture, and understood early on its potential for growing the economy.”

“I have seen it firsthand, from our automakers in Michigan,” Chairwoman Stabenow said. “Agricultural products are being used in nearly every part of automotive production: from seats to interior panels, armrests to sunshades, soy wire coatings, carpets, and structural foam. … As I always say, in Michigan we both grow things and make things.  Agriculture and manufacturing are at the heart of our economy – they are the foundation of the middle class.”

Following the hearing, Members of the Committee and the public went to the Kennedy Caucus Room to see firsthand some of the innovative products that are helping to fuel the biobased manufacturing boom. Representatives from 35 companies and organizations (representing 25 states) were on hand with their products to showcase the innovative work being done in biobased manufacturing. A full list of those companies can be accessed here.

Witnesses who testified before the Committee at the hearing represented companies that have been leading the charge in biobased manufacturing including Mr. Scott Vitters, General Manager, PlantBottle Innovation Platform, The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, GA; Mr. Ashford A. Galbreath, Director, Advanced Materials and Comfort Engineering, Research and Development, Lear Corporation, Southfield, MI; Mr. Kurtis Miller, BU President, Cargill Industrial Specialties, Cargill, Inc., Hopkins, MN; Mr. Adam Monroe, President, Americas, Novozymes North America Inc., Franklinton, NC; and, Mr. J.D. Hankins II, Vice President, Hankins, Inc., Ripley, MS.

An archived webcast of the hearing can be viewed on the Committee’s website at http://ag.senate.gov. Below are Chairwoman Stabenow’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery.

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Opening Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow

U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

June 17, 2014: Grow It Here, Make It Here: Creating Jobs through Biobased Manufacturing

 Thank you all for being here today as we take a look at one of the most promising opportunities we have to grow jobs and strengthen the economy – biobased manufacturing.

Over the past couple of years, this Committee worked together to write a new Farm Bill that focuses on both feeding the world and strengthening the economy. And earlier this year, we saw the work that began at this table make its way to the President’s desk.

The Farm Bill generated significant support from our colleagues in both the House and the Senate because Members on both sides of the aisle recognized how critical it is for growing the economy. They recognized that the Farm Bill is a jobs bill.

One of the biggest ways the Farm Bill is helping to create jobs is found in the Energy title’s biobased initiatives.

We created new opportunities to support biobased manufacturing so innovators in both rural and urban America could continue growing their businesses, and creating manufacturing jobs.

We recognized the connection between manufacturing and agriculture, and understood early on its potential for growing the economy.

As a Michigander, and Chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee, I see the importance of connecting agriculture and manufacturing.  As I always say, in Michigan we both grow things and make things. 

Agriculture and manufacturing are at the heart of our economy – they are the foundation of the middle class. For years, manufacturers have been looking toward agriculture to find biobased alternatives to petroleum products. 

I have seen it firsthand, from our automakers in Michigan.

Agricultural products are being used in nearly every part of automotive production: from seats to interior panels, armrests to sunshades, soy wire coatings, carpets, and structural foam.  One of our witnesses from Lear Corporation will tell us more about this work.

Biobased manufacturing goes beyond the auto industry as well.  More than 3,000 companies in the United States either manufacture or distribute biobased products. 

And what does ‘bio based’ mean? 

It means instead of using petroleum-based chemicals to manufacture products, companies are creating new products from American-grown agriculture crops like soybeans and corn. This shift toward using bio-degradable and renewable materials displaces the need for foreign-based petroleum, and helps to create American jobs.

Outside of this hearing room, just around the corner in the Kennedy Caucus Room, many of these products will be on display following today’s hearing. You will be able to see biobased innovation firsthand, and I certainly hope that you will take the time to do so.

The products on display will include household items like cleaning products and soaps, as well as insulation, plastics, foam products, and fabrics. Innovation in the biobased industry is creating high value products from traditional agricultural goods while creating jobs.

And this innovation is helping us move away from petroleum-based products.

As we heard from another panel of witnesses in April, about the importance of growing the production of advanced biofuels, the technology and commercialization of bio-based alternatives to petroleum are no longer “just around the corner” – they are here now.

Advanced biofuels are creating jobs while also helping the United States become more energy independent – which in turn is creating new opportunities for biobased manufacturing. 

The biorefineries that are coming online can integrate a number of different processes and produce more than just biofuels. These facilities can also produce renewable chemicals that are multi-purpose or polymers that can be used in bio-plastics.

One witness told the Committee how the growing supply chain for biofuels is creating efficiencies that will enable biochemical production in a way that wasn’t possible before.

And today, we will hear from Cargill, which began operating its newest corn wet mill facility near Fort Dodge, Iowa in November. When complete, Fort Dodge aims to be a world class bio-refinery campus similar to Cargill’s production facility in Blair, Nebraska that produces edible syrups and oil, animal feed, ethanol and is home to multiple co-located businesses producing starches, enzymes, corn-based packaging and fiber and other bio-based products.

This facility has already created more than 100 jobs in Fort Dodge.

These perspectives and stories helped shape our thinking as we developed the Energy title of the Farm Bill. For the first time, we created new opportunities for biobased manufacturing and renewable chemical production, officially recognizing and supporting these areas like they never have been before.

We also increased USDA’s resources to manage the Biopreferred Labeling and Procurement program, which helps promote biobased products. 

The opportunities that we created in the Farm Bill, here at this very table, will go a long way in supporting more entrepreneurs and innovators to develop and manufacture products  - and to fuel  economic growth. And jobs.