October 27, 2010
Today, October 27, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced 30 grants totaling over $22 million to enhance the ability of organic producers and processors grow and market high quality organic agricultural products.
In announcing the awards, NIFA Director Roger Beachy noted “More and more farmers are adopting organic agriculture practices to produce qualify food and boost farm income. These research and extension projects will equip producers with the tools and resources they need to operate profitable and sustainable organic farms.”
$18 million in grants were awarded through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). Projects ranged from researching and educating organic farmers about winter cover-cropping systems to developing an organic dietary supplement to control gut pathogens in sheep and goats.
An additional $4 million in grants were awarded through the Organic Transitions Program (ORG), which supports the development and implementation of research, extension and higher education programs to improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers, as well as those who are adopting organic practices. In FY 2010, this program focused on environmental services provided by organic farming systems that support soil conservation and contribute to climate change mitigation; for example, University of Illinois received a grant to quantify the carbon sequestration potential of Midwestern organic grain production systems.
Both sets of grants were awarded primarily to land grant universities. In addition, though, USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) stations in Coshocton, OH, Peoria, IL, Ames, IA and College Station, TX also received OREI awards, as did the Farmers’ Legal Action Group, which received an FY 2010 grant to produce an “Organic Farmers’ Guide to Contracts” to provide organic farmers with knowledge of their rights and responsibilities in marketing contracts.
Some of the awards include broad partnerships. For instance, the “Strengthening Public Corn Breeding to Ensure Organic Farmers’ Access to Elite Cultivars” awarded to the ARS lab in Ames also includes participants from several universities, seed retailers, and Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and Practical Farmers of Iowa. MFAI and PFI are NSAC member organizations. Congratulations to them for their perseverance and dedication to this important project.