2014 Farm Bill Changes Lead Miss. Sawmill to First USDA Biobased Certification

As Ripley Company Prepares to Use BioPreferred Label, Cochran Pushes for Final USDA Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today applauded a northeast Mississippi company for securing the first U.S. Department of Agriculture biobased certification for forest products since the 2014 farm bill made wood and forest products eligible for the procurement and labeling program.

Hankins, Inc. in Ripley has received approval from the USDA to use the certified biobased product label for its kiln-dried southern yellow pine products.  The certification makes it the first company to successfully complete the process since the 2014 farm bill clarified that forest products must be included in the USDA BioPreferred Markets Program for biobased products.

“I am extremely pleased that a Mississippi sawmill has become the first to earn biobased product label certification for forest products.  This should open up new markets for the southern yellow pine products from Mississippi, and that can mean more jobs and economic growth in the long run,” said Cochran, who as ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee worked to expand the BioPreferred program.

In informing Hankins, Inc. of its certification approval, the USDA asserted, “The test results for your product indicate the percentage of biobased content to be 100%,” and added, “The BioPreferred program looks forward to a long and successful partnership with you in the promotion of biobased products.”

The USDA BioPreferred product labeling program offers certified labels to manufacturers for products made of renewable plant, animal, marine or forestry materials. The label also grants these products federal procurement preference, which means the federal agencies are encouraged to purchase them to the maximum extent practicable.

Created in the 2002 farm bill, the labeling program excluded products like forest-based goods that were in existence before 1972.  The 2014 farm bill, which became law in February, removed the exclusion of mature products from the BioPreferred program regulations.  This farm bill change was finalized by the USDA in September, allowing Hankins, Inc. to apply for certification and immediately allow greater inclusion of U.S.-sourced wood and forest products in the program.

Cochran encouraged the USDA to continue its work to finalize the BioPreferred rule and incorporate the changes made by the 2014 farm bill.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the USDA to complete the rulemaking process for the BioPreferred program so that we can ensure forest products have opportunities to participate in the program moving forward,” Cochran said.

In testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee in June, Hankins, Inc. co-owner J.D. Hankins said the family-owned sawmill produces more than 95 million board feet annually, sustaining more than 90 jobs in Tippah County.

“Innovation in the industry over the past two decades has been phenomenal and has allowed the industry to more fully utilize our country’s natural resources.  For this reason, the forest products industries, including lumber, paper, and others, urged Congress to clarify the standards of the program in the 2014 Farm Bill,” Hankins testified in June.  “With the strong support of this Committee, that goal was achieved.”

•    USDA BioPreferred Program:  http://1.usa.gov/1AduKkI
•    2014 Farm Bill Biobased Provisions Build Opportunities for Miss. Forest Products: http://1.usa.gov/1q9YVCi
•    Cochran Asks If USDA Biobased Bias Shuts Out Traditional Forest Products: http://1.usa.gov/11YEdry