Research, Education, and Extension


In comparison to the enormous opportunity that sustainable agriculture represents for farmers and rural communities, federal investment in sustainable agriculture research, education, and extension has been miniscule.  Without robust funding for public research that promotes ecologically-based production systems, scientific and technical innovation is stifled and U.S. farmers and ranchers are unable to fully participate in and benefit from emerging markets for sustainably-produced foods.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has been working to secure increased resources for sustainable agriculture research, education, and extension, and will continue to do so in the current farm bill debate.  Significant gains were made in the 2008 Farm Bill to increase research and extension funding for sustainable and organic agriculture, public plant and animal breeding, renewable energy and conservation, minority and beginning farmer outreach and development, agricultural and rural entrepreneurship, and food systems and public health.  Despite the gains, however, there is still a long way to go to both ensure farmers have the knowledge and information they need to implement and maximize their sustainable agriculture systems, and protect these programs in the future.

NSAC will continue to push to ensure the nation’s investment in agricultural research, education, and extension supports sustainable agriculture systems, including organic and other ecologically-based production systems, and involves farmers and ranchers directly in research as primary investigators and beneficiaries.

Priorities for the Research, Education, and Extension Committee for 2014

Seeds and Breeds Initiatives
Expand seed diversity and support farmer choice by increasing research support for the development of publicly available and regionally adapted seeds and breeds that are appropriate for organic and sustainable farming systems.

Leverage Funding for Organic Research
Enable organic farmers to meet the growing demand for organically produced food by ensuring they have the research innovations they need to address the unique challenges facing organic production.

Increase Access to Data on Organic and Local Food Markets
Expand data collection efforts and economic analysis of national data and market trends that organic and local food producers can use in making key business and marketing decisions.

Grow the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program
Continue support for farmer-driven research using cutting edge solutions to address problems facing sustainable agriculture producers.

For information on NSAC’s appropriations campaign priorities, check our annual appropriations page.

Recent Actions Taken by NSAC:

  • NSAC submitted written comments to USDA in response to their call for stakeholder input on the Department’s role in public plant breeding research, August 22, 2013.
  • NSAC submitted written comments to USDA on the FY2013 Request for Applications for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, April 12, 2013.
  • NSAC worked with member groups across the country to uncover important stories from the field on the important projects funded from federal sustainable agriculture research programs that Congress allowed to expire on October 1st, 2012. (Follow these links to read more about beginning farmers, organic research and organic data needs).
  • NSAC joined 100 other organizations and 100 scientists on a letter submitted to members of the Senate, urging their support for an amendment to the farm bill that would protect seed diversity and ensure federal research dollars are made available for public plant and animal breeding, June 5, 2012.
  • NSAC submitted written comments on sustainable agriculture research appropriations priorities, including SARE and AFRI, March 20, 2012.
  • NSAC presented testimony on the FY2013 Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program, February 22, 2012.
  • NSAC joined on a sign-on letter submitted by members of the AFRI Coalition and other groups, advocating for level funding for AFRI in the agricultural appropriations conference session, November 4, 2011.
  • NSAC, along with 38 other organizations, submitted a letter on October 27, 2011 to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees in support of mandatory funding for farm bill research programs that support beginning farmers, organic and specialty crop producers.
  • NSAC joined on a sign-on letter submitted by the AFRI Coalition, urging leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to maintain funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative in their Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bills, September 23, 2011.
  • NSAC and several other member organizations hosted a farmer fly in on July 20, 2011, to advocate for funding for sustainable agriculture research programs in the 2012 appropriations process and USDA’s fiscal year 2013 budget requests.
  • NSAC submits a letter urging Senators and Representatives to support funding for USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA)’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) at $280 million for FY2011.
  • NSAC joins on a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to support funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative for fiscal year 2011.
  • NSAC submits a letter urging Senators and Representatives to support funding for USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA)’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) at $280 million for FY2011.
  • NSAC submits a letter to support funding for USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area in the FY2011 Continuing Resolution.