Manufacturers that use a significant amount of corn, soybeans or other agricultural ingredients to make their products may get a boost from the emerging farm bill.

Manufacturers that use a significant amount of corn, soybeans or other agricultural ingredients to make their products may get a boost from the emerging farm bill.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio said yesterday that parts of the bill could guarantee bio-based manufacturer loans and hold the federal government accountable for buying more of their products.

They touted those provisions while touring a Columbus company, Plastic Suppliers, which makes film for packaging purposes with bio-based materials.

“It will likely create more opportunities, particularly in financing and capital for this industry, and that’s only good for Ohio, when you think about agriculture and manufacturing coming together,” said Brown, a Democrat.

The bill, which has been in progress for more than a year, likely will be voted on in the Senate on Tuesday and could reach President Barack Obama’s desk in the next two weeks, Brown said.

By expanding the bill’s energy title, Congress is creating “loan-guarantee and grant programs that will help not just fuel and energy production in this country, but the ability to produce biochemicals, bioplastics, fabrics and fibers that can create a whole range of products,” Vilsack said.

Meanwhile, makers of bio-based products, such as Plastic Suppliers, could realize a larger opportunity to sell their products to the federal government through the Agriculture Department’s BioPreferred Program.

The program has doubled the number of such products available to federal agencies for purchase, Vilsack said.

“And now, we’re creating an accountability and reporting system to ensure that we are, indeed, using our purchasing power to advance this industry,” he said.

Ultimately, the financing and purchasing programs are designed to boost businesses and jobs in rural and urban areas, he said.

That was good news to Randy Scott.

“Access to capital is extremely critical to us to get to the next level,” said Scott, vice president of sales and marketing in the Americas for Plastic Suppliers. The company, at 2887 Johnstown Rd., makes both corn- and petroleum-based packaging films and employs 150 people.

Plastic Suppliers’ bio-based film, called EarthFirst, is used to package many consumer products — wrapping milk bottles with a producer’s brand, sealing six-packs of yogurt and making oatmeal boxes tamper-proof.

The Columbus plastics company gets its bio-based pellets from NatureWorks, a Blair, Neb., company that has built a family of biopolymers made entirely from plants, such as corn.

Plastic Suppliers’ bio-based films cost more than those made from petroleum, so it often has to convince industrial customers why they should put their products in packages made from sustainable and often-biodegradable ingredients.

“How do we position our product and the value it brings at the right price?” Scott asked.

Plastic Suppliers is one of about 130 companies statewide that do at least some bio-based manufacturing, Brown said.

Using bio-based products keeps plastics and other long-lived materials out of landfills.

“Every time we use a bio-based plastic, we are sequestering carbon,” said Dennis Hall, director of the Ohio Bioproducts Innovation Center at Ohio State University, which works to speed bioproducts to market.

So capturing some of the atmosphere’s carbon in a plastic or other bioproduct can help slow climate change, he said.

Making products from agricultural ingredients, such as corn or corn stalks, also helps farmers. “That’s a value add for growers around the state,” Hall said.

As a top agriculture and manufacturing state, Ohio is well-positioned to lead the bio-based products industry.

“What we have here, which is unique, is both the polymer-manufacturing industry and agriculture,” Hall said.



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