Magazine article Rural Cooperatives

Bio-Based, Renewable Energy Products Featured at USDA Earth Day Event

Magazine article Rural Cooperatives

Bio-Based, Renewable Energy Products Featured at USDA Earth Day Event

Article excerpt

USDA celebrated Earth Day with a product showcase of bio-based and renewable energy products. The show, held in the courtyard of the Department of Agriculture headquarters in Washington, D.C., featured more than a dozen manufacturers of a wide variety of bio-based and renewable products. The event not only demonstrated the adaptability of U.S. crops for Earth-friendly products, but also provided an opportunity for federal purchasers to learn more about the products.

"American farmers--unmatched in the world for their productivity of food and fiber--are now producing bio-based products that will do everything from fuel our cars to provide Earth- safe solvents to clean our homes and factories," said Michael Kossey, the show coordinator and special projects manager for USDA's Rural Utilities Service.

One of the featured exhibitors was Natural Plant Products of Salem, Ore., a cooperative of 85 turf grass growers. Many turf growers in the Northwest also grow meadowtoam, a herbaceous annual wildflower that yields an oil with a unique, fatty-acid composition that has been used since the mid-1980s by the cosmetics and personal-care products industry. The co-op, formed in 1982, expanded rapidly in the mid-1990s, recruiting new members to help meet demand that was growing at 15 percent per year. As a result, acreage shot up from 2,000 to 8,500 acres.

But--in a process that many growers know all too well--the industry is now in an over-supply situation, which has the co-op and others looking for new uses for meadowfoam. One of the most promising uses--on display at the USDA Earth Day event--is meadowfoam meal, a pelletized product which has been used successfully in the nursery industry as a fertilizer and as a protectant against weeds. Other uses being studied for meadowfoam oil, which is highly stable, include as an additive in hydraulic and motor oils. …

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