October 21, 2016
Tis the season…for grant proposals! With the new federal budget year (FY 2017) having started October 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been furiously releasing grants oportunities. Just this month USDA has announced Request for Applications (RFA) for projects to help SNAP users access more healthy foods, increase energy conservation on farms and in rural communities, and train beginning farmers. Today, USDA’s National Institution of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) added an RFA for the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) program – which awards grants to research, education and extension projects that seek to advance the production and improve the quality of organic produce – to the growing list of grant opportunities.
The OREI RFA is well timed, coming shortly after the release of the Organic Seed Alliance’s State of Organic Seed 2016 report (an update to their 2011 comprehensive assessment of organic seed systems in the United States) and the Organic Farming Research Foundation’s (an NSAC member organization) Taking Stock report, which is a review of OREI’s progress to date. Both reports provide a comprehensive review of the current research needs of organic farmers and producers and include analysis of the role OREI plays in supporting those efforts.
A variety of organic stakeholders are eligible for the OREI funding, including: universities, non-profit organizations, federal agencies, private companies, national laboratories, and individuals. However, projects are required to include a local or regional advisory panel, and should also include farmers’ in the on-farm testing and implementation process when appropriate.
This year, NIFA estimates there will be a total of $17,624,076 available for projects involved with a number of organic-related research and extension efforts. Applications are due January 19, 2017.
FY 2017 RFA Reflects NSAC Recommendations
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) commends NIFA for retaining many important priority areas and adding useful updates to the FY 2017 OREI RFA, many of which were NSAC recommendations made earlier this year.
NSAC-supported priorities retained in the RFA include:
NSAC recommendations adopted into the FY 2017 RFA include:
Perhaps our one area of disappointment is that the FY 2017 RFA still does not include a priority area for policy. OREI has eight legislatively-defined goals, one of which is identifying policy constraints to the expansion of organic agriculture. Yet, for inexplicable reasons, this statutory priority continues to be left out of the RFA and guidelines for policy-based grant proposals remain unclear and undefined.
NSAC looks forward to the innovations that the next round of OREI grant projects will undoubtedly bring and applauds NIFA and USDA for making several important changes in the FY 2017 RFA.