Senate Committee Considers Ag's Role In Biobased Manufacturing

Senate Committee Considers Ag's Role In Biobased Manufacturing

Coca-Cola, Cargill representatives testify during hearing to discuss how biobased products can create manufacturing jobs across the U.S.

A variety of U.S. companies are focusing on biobased products and innovative manufacturing, a hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday showed.

The hearing, part of a 'Grow It Here, Make It Here' campaign, was led by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture. Thirty-five companies and organizations from 25 states had their work on display in the Kennedy Caucus Room and representatives of the companies provided perspective on how they use or incorporate biobased products into their business.

Biobased products are created using soybeans and corn, rather than petroleum-based chemicals.

Coca-Cola recently partnered with Ford Motor Company to share its PlantBottle technology for making car interiors from plant-based resources. (Coca-Cola photo)

"More than 3,000 companies in the United States either manufacture or distribute biobased products," Stabenow said. "This shift toward using bio-degradable and renewable materials grown on farms here in the U.S. displaces the need for foreign-based petroleum, and helps to create American jobs."

Scott Vitters, General Manager, PlantBottle Innovation Platform for Coca-Cola, explained during the hearing how the company is using renewable and recyclable biobased resources to develop bottles.

Related: USDA Announces Investments in Biobased and Renewable Products

Vitters also said the company is "rethinking traditional approaches to innovation" by sharing its own technology with competitors to help broaden the use of biobased materials that produce bottles. Collaborators have included SeaWorld, the Ford Motor Company and Heinz.

Vitters also addressed concerns from some groups that biobased products are not sustainable.

"As one of the largest buyers of sugars and starches in the world, I can assure that any trend with the potential of negatively impacting food and feed supplies would be of significant concern to our company," Vitters said.

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"Through transparency and credible third-party partnerships, we can advance breakthrough biobased manufacturing opportunities that deliver better environmental and social performance without negatively impacting local food security."

Biobased products a focus of farm bill
Also during the hearing, Stabenow addressed how the farm bill is connecting agriculture with manufacturing. Signed into law in February, it included initiatives to help companies take advantage of new resources to grow their manufacturing businesses and create jobs.

The connection between agriculture, manufacturing and the economy is apparent in her home state, Stabenow explained.

"I have seen it firsthand, from our automakers in Michigan," Chairwoman Stabenow said. "Agricultural products are being used in nearly every part of automotive production."

Companies represented at the hearing included The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, Ga.; Lear Corporation, Southfield, Mich.; Cargill Industrial Specialties, Cargill, Inc., Hopkins, Minn.; Novozymes North America Inc., Franklinton, N.C.; and Hankins, Inc., Ripley, Miss.

An archived webcast of the hearing can be viewed on the Committee's website at http://ag.senate.gov.

TAGS: Soybean USDA
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