Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is hosting a product showcase at the Pentagon, to educate officials in the defense department about Iowa’s growing bio-based industry and its military applications. A provision in the 2002 farm bill calls for federal agencies to purchase bio-based products if they’re roughly equal in quality, price and availability, and the USDA’s begun identifying products that fit that definition.

Harkin says the Department of Defense is the biggest purchaser in the federal government. As an example, he says there’s now an approved soy-based hydraulic fluid for motor vehicles, and he says the military buys a lot of that kind of fluid in a year. Now it’s available made from soybean oil, and this gives the government a chance to see these items.

Harkin says the military buys millions of water bottles a year for our troops around the world, so all those bottles could be made from cornstarch. Harkin says the federal government spends billions of dollars a year purchasing products from the private sector. He says a lot of those are made with petroleum based products, but could be replaced with items now made from renewable resources.

The exhibit today (Tuesday) and tomorrow features 37 companies from around the country including half-a-dozen from Iowa — Fox River Mills in Osage, AllSteel in Muscatine, B-4 Brands in Lisbon, Green Products Company in Conrad, Soy Clean in Brooklyn, and Vibro-Acoustics in Ames.