USDA Announces $3.8 Million for Research to Help Farmers and Ranchers Meet Growing Demand for Organic Products

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced the availability of up to $3.8 million in funding to support research, education and extension to support organic farmers and ranchers as well as those adopting organic practices for the first time. The grants are funded through the Organic Transitions Program (ORG), administered by NIFA and authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“The United States retail market for organic products is valued at more than $43 billion—and consumer demand for organic products is booming,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “Research investments in programs like Organic Transitions helps more farms become certified organic and gain access to this growing market opportunity.”

Priority research areas include:

  • Documenting and understanding the effects of organic practices such as crop rotation, livestock-crop integration, organic manure, mulch and/or compost additions, cover crops, and reduced or conservation tillage on ecosystem services, greenhouse gas mitigation, and biodiversity.
  • Improving technologies, methods, model development and other metrics to document, describe and optimize the environmental services and climate change mitigation ability of organic farming systems.
  • Developing cultural practices and other allowable alternatives to substances recommended for removal from NOP’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.
  • Addressing major barriers that limit the transition to organic agriculture in a given region or specific crop or animal production systems.

Applications are due March 9, 2017.  For eligibility, program details and to apply for a grant, see NIFA’s Organic Transitions web page.

Previous projects funded through the Organic Transitions Program include a multi-state, trans-disciplinary project led by the University of Maryland to improve the management of soils in transitional and organic farming systems. A project from South Dakota State University brought together Native American stakeholders with agricultural and social scientists to develop organic production practices and market the resulting produce.

Over the past eight years, USDA has strengthened programs that support organic producers as they grow and respond to increasing consumer demand for a range of organic products. The USDA organic seal has become a leading global standard and in the U.S. there are now over 21,700 certified USDA organic operations, representing a nearly 300% increase since 2002. Worldwide, there are more than 31,000 certified organic operations in over 120 countries.

USDA supports the organic sector through a wide variety of programs, including conservation grants, organic crop insurance, certification cost-share, organic market news and simplified microloans. To learn more about USDA support for organic agriculture, visit www.usda.gov/organic.

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