USDA allots $17.6M for organic ag research

By Agri-Pulse staff

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2016 - USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is making available $17.6 million for research and outreach activities to support the organic agriculture sector. The grants are funded through NIFA's Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), authorized by the 2014 farm bill.

"The organic industry is the fastest growing segment of U.S. agriculture, with sales growing by $4.2 billion last year to reach a record $43.3 billion," NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy said in a release. Ramaswany said that over the past seven years, USDA has invested almost $261 million in research to improve the productivity and success of organic agriculture, including seed-breeding. OREI, he said, “is one of the many ways USDA is helping this sector meet growing consumer demand."

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OREI funds high-priority research, education and extension projects that are designed at enhancing the ability of producers and processors who have already adopted organic standards to grow and market high quality organic products. Eligible entities include land-grant and other research universities, federal agencies, national laboratories, state agricultural experiment stations, and research foundations and other private researchers.

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Priority areas include biological, physical and social science research, including economics. Funded projects will aid farmers and ranchers with whole-farm planning by delivering practical research-based information and improve the ability for growers to develop the Organic System Plan required for certification.

OREI has eight legislatively-defined goals:

--Facilitate the development and improvement of organic agriculture production, breeding, and processing methods;

--Evaluate the potential economic benefits of organic agricultural production and methods to producers, processors and rural communities;

--Explore international trade opportunities for organically grown and processed agricultural commodities;

--Determine desirable traits for organic commodities;

--Identify marketing and policy constraints on the expansion of organic agriculture;

--Conduct advanced on-farm research and development into topic areas including production, marketing, food safety, socioeconomic conditions and farm business management;

--Examine optimal conservation and environmental outcomes relating to organically-produced agricultural products; and

--Develop new and improved seed varieties that are particularly suited for organic agriculture.

Applications are due by January 19, 2017. See the OREI request for applications for details.

Examples of previously funded projects include a planning grant to South Dakota State University for work with Native American stakeholders to develop a self-sustaining organic tribal bison production system. Another project with Downstream Strategies, LLC produced a report, Overcoming the Market Barriers to Organic Production in West Virginia.

To learn more about NIFA's impact on agricultural science, visit www.nifa.usda.gov/impacts, sign up for email updates, or follow us on Twitter @usda_NIFA, #NIFAimpacts.

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