Chairwoman Stabenow: Rural Job Sector Poised to Grow Through Bio-based Manufacturing, Energy Efficiency Boom

Rural Job Creation Highlighted as Potential Bright Spot in Economy at Senate Agriculture Committee Hearing

Washington, DC – Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today said that bio-based manufacturing and energy efficiency efforts in rural areas will be key in creating jobs and growing the rural and national economy. Noting that 16 million Americans have jobs because of agriculture, Chairwoman Stabenow called the rural economy a bright spot and underscored the potential for a manufacturing boom in the bio-based sector – where innovators and entrepreneurs are processing American grown agriculture products for use in manufactured goods and displacing the need for foreign petroleum.

“We tend to think of America’s dependence on foreign oil only at the gas pump, but we also rely on imported petroleum for plastics, foams, and other materials that we use every day,” Chairwoman Stabenow said, highlighting the potential for bio-based manufacturing to displace traditional petroleum products.

“In Michigan alone, we have over 80 companies manufacturing bio-based products and even more using bio-based materials in their products. And these products aren’t just for cars – they are cleaning products, soaps, insulation, plastics, foam products, and fabrics. Manufacturing accounts for roughly a quarter of rural private sector earnings, and accounts for more than 1 in 10 rural jobs … Agriculture and manufacturing are at the heart of any economy – they created the U.S. middle class and are the lifeblood of rural America.”

Bio-based products have the potential to displace foreign petroleum, redirect investment into domestic operations and strengthen the American manufacturing sector, Chairwoman Stabenow said. She noted that bio-based manufacturing is poised to grow, building on the work of American agricultural pioneers.

“Henry Ford experimented with ways that soy-based products could be used in automotive production,” she said. “Today, we have cars rolling down assembly lines across America being built with parts made from agricultural products: seats, interior panels, armrests, sunshades, to soy wire coatings, carpets, and structural foam.”

Chairwoman Stabenow also focused on energy efficiency as an opportunity to spur job creation across rural America, saving energy consumers money on utility bills and creating demand for a skilled workforce. 

“Because rural residents are more likely to live in older, less energy efficient homes, USDA has found that they spend as much as $400 more a year on energy costs than people who live in cities,” Chairwoman Stabenow said. “A rural energy efficiency program would not only lower energy costs for families, farmers, and small businesses, but it would also create opportunities for companies that manufacture energy efficient insulation, heating and cooling systems, and doors and windows.”

Witnesses at the hearing included Mr. Bruce Graham, CEO, Indiana Statewide Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, Inc., Indianapolis, IN; Mr. Zac Stewart, Owner, Ambient, LLC, Ignacio, CO; Mr. Paul Bony, Director, Residential Market Development, Climate Master, Oklahoma City, OK; Dr. Helen Sanders, Vice President, Technical Business Development, SAGE Electrochromics, Inc., Faribault, MN; Dr. Marc Verbruggen, President and CEO, NatureWorks LLC, Wayzata, MN; Dr. Oliver P. Peoples, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Metabolix, Inc., Cambridge, MA; Mr. John McIntosh, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Signature Crypton Carpet, Dalton, GA; and, Mr. Dennis Hall, Assistant Director, Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center, Columbus, OH.