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Greenwood to Congress: BIO-Based Economy Is The Future … Will America Lead it?

March 9, 2017
Oral Testimony of the Honorable James C. Greenwood
President and CEO, Biotechnology Innovation Organization
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Agriculture
Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit
The Next Farm Bill: Examining Rural Development & Energy Programs

March 9, 2017

Chairman Scott and Ranking Member Scott, good morning. Thank you for the invitation to testify today as we look ahead to the next farm bill and strategies to support our farmers and local businesses.

Twelve years ago, I left a safe seat here in the House to lead the world’s largest trade association representing biotechnology companies.

I did so because I believe deeply in this industry and our ability to affordably fuel, feed and heal this country – and the world.

Mr. Chairman, congratulations on your selection to lead this committee. Mr. Ranking Member, welcome back.

I had the opportunity to be a subcommittee chairman during my service on the Energy and Commerce Committee under Speaker Gingrich.

These leadership posts don’t always bring the cameras – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing these days. But they do bring the opportunity to enact your ideas and make a difference for the people who put us here.

I know Georgia’s farmers are in good hands. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this subcommittee and the USDA are now led by public servants from a state that’s on the cutting edge of modern agriculture.

Georgia generates more than $8 billion a year in bio-based industrial activity. Only one state in the union produces more.  And nationally, Georgia is ranked 4th in number of direct biobased industry jobs – with more than 80,000.

One of Georgia’s most iconic companies, Coca Cola, has utilized the farm bill’s energy title to become one of the largest bioplastics end users in the country. Their new bottle introduced in 2009 is made 30 percent from plants. To date, Coca Cola has produced more than 40 billion PlantBottles. And the PlantBottle technology is now being used in polyester car interiors and souvenir cups – and Coca Cola is building new manufacturing facilities and creating made in the USA jobs through its Plant PET Technology Collaborative.

That’s just one example from one farm bill energy initiative, USDA’s BIOPreferred program. Actually, there are 71 companies in Georgia benefitting from this program – from biobased flooring companies in Dalton to the world’s leading producer of pine chemicals in Savannah.

In my written statement – and in a BIO report I’ve submitted for the record – I highlight companies from every state that are developing new technologies and products with support from each of the farm bill energy title programs. We should build on these programs and go forward, not back.

If you would have asked me during my time in Congress: What's the only thing a Member can do for his constituents more valuable than create jobs? I might have said: Create new American industries full of high-paying jobs – jobs that will help preserve our natural environment for our children and grandchildren.

That’s exactly the future we’re building, and the energy title of the farm bill is a big reason why.

According to USDA, the bio-based industry contributes $393 billion to the U.S. economy annually and supports 4.2 million jobs. And the bioeconomy is adding hundreds of thousands more jobs a year. The renewable fuels sector adds another 850,000 jobs, $185 billion in annual economic output, and $46 billion in wages for our farmers and our workers, according to an analysis from Fuels America.

These numbers would be a fraction of their current size without the energy title. The programs in the title provide what all investors say they need – a long-term, stable policy environment to help them make investment decisions.

That stability is especially important in these tough times for our rural producers. We know America’s farmers today are facing severe economic pressures. Commodity prices are down – and so are net farm incomes. They dropped 15 percent last year, and the USDA forecasts another 9 percent drop this year. The farm bill’s energy programs are an instrumental tool to help farmers weather this storm and bounce back stronger.

The demand for biomass gives farmers a value-added product they can grow to offset low commodity prices. McKinsey & Co. estimates a quarter trillion dollars in annual global sales of biobased products. Here in the United States, we have the people, the universities, the technology and the vision to lead the world in bio processes and products.

Biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products diversify demand for crops and crop residues. Just as modern oil refineries take a crude oil feedstock and produce many value-added products, biorefineries take renewable feedstocks and do the same.

And the growing demand for employees to build and operate these new biorefineries is another way we’re revitalizing rural communities.

This is the future. The choice we make in the farm bill is whether or not we’re going lead it.

In addition to boosting farmer incomes, creating jobs, and revitalizing U.S. manufacturing, the biobased economy is helping to offset the impact OPEC has on our oil prices. In 2014, biobased products replaced nearly 7 million barrels of oil. In 2015, renewable fuels displaced an amount of gasoline equivalent to 527 million barrels of crude. In other words, our industry saved us roughly the volume of oil imported annually from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – combined.

BIO is proud to be a founding member of the AgEnergy Coalition of trade groups, companies, and organizations, representing thousands of farmers and businesses across the country. We’re committed to developing an “all of the above” approach to supporting renewables, energy efficiency, and farm and forest resources.

To me, the economic case alone for these new technologies is so strong and compelling that it warrants the continuation and growth of this title, even if one did not share my conviction that they’re also critical to the health of our planet.

Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with this committee as we plot a course to capture and capitalize on this growing market to harvest and manufacture sustainably.