Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the Sherwin-Williams John G. Breen Technology research facility in Cleveland to highlight how the growing biobased products industry is creating new economic opportunities for Ohio agriculture and manufacturing. Sherwin Williams is developing new, biobased paints using soybeans, an example of how agricultural products grown by America's farmers are being used to make products for consumers, creating jobs on the farm and in the manufacturing and retail sectors. Vilsack was joined at the event by Ohio U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and Chris Connor, Chairman and CEO of the Sherwin-Williams Company.
"The biobased products sector marries the two most important economic engines for rural America: agriculture and manufacturing," said Vilsack. "Ohio has an emerging biobased-manufacturing industry, with nearly 150 companies in Ohio already producing biobased products. Using agricultural commodities grown by farmers, right here in the Midwest, Ohio has the potential to lead the nation in the creation of new biobased products and create sustainable economic opportunities for the entire region."
Though the industry is in its early stages, today nearly 3,100 companies are producing more than 25,000 biobased products. Last month, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum to create jobs through increased procurement of biobased products by the federal government. In 2011, USDA announced the designation of 14 additional biobased product categories that are eligible for federal procurement preference.
Last year the Sherwin-Williams Company was awarded the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. The award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) on behalf of the White House, recognized Sherwin-Williams innovative new paint formulation, utilizing soybean oil and recycled plastic bottles (PET) in the substantial reduction of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). In manufacturing the new paint formula, Sherwin-Williams has used 320,000 pounds of soybean oil, 250,000 pounds of PET, and eliminated 1,000 barrels of oil. The company's continued evolution and expansion of the Sherwin-Williams technology has the potential to eliminate millions of pounds of VOC emissions while supporting the recycling of multi-million pounds of PET each year.
Secretary Vilsack also highlighted Ohio's state program, BioOhio, which is similar to USDA's BioPreferred program. The BioPreferred program, launched in January 2011, is a voluntary USDA product certification and labeling program for qualifying biobased products. The label identifies biobased products made from renewable resources and promotes the increased sale and use of these products in the commercial market and for consumers.
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.
Creating new markets for the nation's agricultural products through biobased manufacturing is one of the many steps the Administration has taken over the past three years to strengthen the rural economy. Since August 2011, the White House Rural Council has supported a broad spectrum of rural initiatives including a $350 million commitment in SBA funding to rural small businesses over the next 5 years, launching a series of conferences to connect investors with rural start-ups, creating capital marketing teams to pitch federal funding opportunities to private investors interested in making rural investments, making job search information available at 2,800 local USDA offices nationwide, making HHS loans available to help more than 1,300 Critical Access Hospitals recruit additional staff, and helping rural hospitals purchase software and hardware to implement health IT.