Stabenow, Vilsack tour biobased manufacturing facilities

By Erin Voegele | August 08, 2012

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., kicked off her “Jobs of the Future” tour on August 6 at Ford Motor Co.’s biobased lab in Dearborn, Mich. Stabenow chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. During the tour, she is meeting with Michigan business leaders to discuss initiatives to boost the state’s economy by helping innovative companies create new, high-tech jobs. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined in the event.

Stabenow and Vilsack toured Ford’s Innovation and Research Laboratory, where the auto manufacturer’s biomaterials scientific team demonstrated how they produce a biobased foam using soy feedstock. The material is used in seat cushions in many Ford vehicles. Biobased products made by other manufacturers were also on display at the event.

“The biobased products sector brings together two of the most important economic engines for rural America: agriculture and manufacturing,” said Vilsack. “Today, more than 3,000 companies are producing more than 25,000 biobased products made from renewable sources grown here at home, and supporting 100,000 American jobs. These companies are developing a wide variety of products—from cleaners and paints to parts for automobiles. Using agricultural products grown by farmers right here in the Midwest, Michigan has the potential to lead the nation in bio-based manufacturing and create sustainable economic opportunities for the entire region.”

On August 7, Stabenow and Vilsack continued the “Jobs of the Future” tour with a stop at Zeeland Farm Services, Michigan’s largest soybean processor. Zeeland Farm Services formed a joint venture with BioPlastic Polymers and Composites LLC to development biobased products. The joint venture, named Zeeland Bio-Based Producers LLC currently produces a biobased bar and chain oil using soybean feedstock. The product is biodegradable and is used in industrial chainsaws, chain bars, and sprockets. Additional products are under development by the joint venture.

“We are delighted at Senator Stabenow's high level of interest and strong leadership in the area of bio-based products being developed from Michigan grown crops,” said Ken Farminer, director of business development for Zeeland Bio-Based Products. “Her valued support provides a critical contribution to the development of such products and to the jobs that will be created from these developments.”

Earlier this year Stabenow introduced her “Grow it Here, Make it Here” initiative, which includes four primary components. It aims to strengthen the USDA’s Biopreferred Program, focus more resources on helping to move biobased projects from the development phase to the commercialization phase, expand the USDA’s Biorefinery Loan Guarantee Program, and create a tax inventive to help finance biobased manufacturing projects.