A count of bio-based companies across the country leaves no doubt the industry is booming. Earlier this year there an estimated 800 companies nationwide, about 80 in Iowa, making bio-based products. Those qualify for preference in the purchasing of supplies and material for federal agencies and departments, and in March the USDA finalized rules for six categories of products that qualify.

Iowa State University Industrial Specialist Steve Devlin says ISU is helping the federal department of agriculture set up the categories. He says that first six items covers about 120 different companies, and probably more than 800 products. Devlin says 70 to 80-percent of the products that qualify as bio-based are made from corn or soybeans.

“When we first started this program, we thought that once we got those first six items designated then we’d just be able to go ahead and crank out subsequent rules following the same template,” Devlin says. “But each time we’ve gone forward with a proposed rule we’ve found more and more requirements, or more and more requests for different kinds of information or different contacts to be made.”

Devlin says another 20 categories are ready to be approved by the USDA, which would make more than two-thousand companies selling more than ten-thousand products eligible for the bio-based category.