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USDA chief Vilsack, Sen. Brown tout biobased products in Columbus

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Ohio's senior U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack were in Columbus Friday to highlight the 2014 Farm Bill and a new initiative aimed at expanding Ohio’s biobased economy.

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The U.S. House of Representatives approved a farm bill Thursday that had failed to mature to a vote over the last two years but will now head to the Senate next week where it's widely expected to be approved then sent to the White House for the signature of President Barack Obama.

Watch the press conference on 60 Seconds Ohio

According to Vilsack, a former Iowa governor who is in his second tour of duty with the Obama Administration, investing in biobased products, which link two of Ohio’s most important industries – agriculture and manufacturing – is expected to create jobs for Ohio. Brown, elected in 2012 to a second term in the upper chamber in Washington, and Vilsack visited Plastic Suppliers, Inc., an industry-leading company which makes plastic film from biobased materials. They outlined how passage of the 2014 Farm Bill will create manufacturing and agriculture jobs through increased biobased procurement and promotion.

"The biobased industry connects two of Ohio’s strongest sectors – agriculture and manufacturing," Sen. Brown said in prepared remarks. "With one in seven jobs related to food and agriculture in Ohio, finding ways to create new markets and investments is key to creating jobs and promotion economic growth." As the nation and Ohio focuses on biobased products, small towns and agricultural communities can expect new opportunities for their agricultural bioproducts.

Taking questions from reporters Friday morning, before another appearance together in the afternoon at an even hosted by the Ohio Farmer's Union, Vilsack said the approximately $8 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP], also known as food stamps, might now be that high if USDA can do a better job at internal administrative controls that can help people in need obtain a package of services that include food stamps.

For Vilsack and Brown, the good news of the farm bill is that it won't contain $39 billion in SNAP cuts House Republicans wanted. Instead, that figure was whittled down to about $8 billion, which is still double the $4 billion passed in the Senate version of the bill. Brown was pleased to say not only was the $39 billion rejected but the GOP's fall back position of $20 billion in SNAP cuts was also defeated.

According to Brown's office, biobased products are composed wholly or significantly of biological ingredients—renewable plant, animal, marine, or forestry materials. From natural pet foods and biobased paint, to soy ink and toner, Ohio companies can create jobs throughout the state producing a link between agriculture and manufacturing.

It's common knowledge that Ohio has an emerging biobased-manufacturing industry, with nearly 130 companies – including Plastic Suppliers, Inc. –in Ohio already producing biobased products, and has the potential to lead the nation in the creation of new biobased products.

"We are pleased that we had the opportunity to show Secretary Vilsack and Senator Brown how EarthFirst films offer a more sustainable choice for food packaging companies," PSI President and CEO George Thomas said. "We know the packaging industry seeks new and innovative materials to help them achieve their responsible packaging goals, and our EarthFirst films offer a smart solution for packaging companies to reach those goals."

In March 2012, Brown announced his “Grow it Here, Make it Here” initiative to boost the biobased products industry and expand markets and create jobs in Ohio. Brown’s initiative would increase access to capital for biobased manufacturers, improve marketing of biobased products, and further the commercialization of new agricultural innovations.

When asked by CGE whether two popular crops—one now legal in two states while the second has been widely consumed over time and has led some experts to say it is driving America's growing crisis of diabetes that adds untold and staggering costs to medical bills for Americans—should be reclassified according to their danger, Sec. Vilsack deflected the question.

Marijuana, illegal by federal law but widely consumed and now legal for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, is not the killer that sugar is. Marijuana is listed as a tier one drug along with heroin and morphine while sugar is sold in 5-pound bags in grocery stories. Sec. Vilsack said the farm bill contains a couple sentences that will enable USDA to provide better and more outreach information to expectant mothers and young children.

The news article USDA chief Vilsack, Sen. Brown tout biobased products in Columbus appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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