Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative

Program Basics

The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) is USDA’s flagship competitive grants program specific to organic systems.  OREI funds research, education, and extension projects that enhance the ability of producers and processors to grow and market high quality organic agricultural products.  State agricultural experiment stations, all colleges and universities, other research institutions and organizations, Federal agencies, national laboratories, private organizations, corporations, and individuals are eligible to apply to receive these grants.

Six legislatively defined purposes have guided grant making under the program since it was first established in 2002.  These purposes are:

  1. facilitating the development of organic agriculture production, breeding, and processing methods;
  2. evaluating the potential economic benefits to producers and processors who use organic methods;
  3. exploring international trade opportunities for organically grown and processed agricultural commodities;
  4. determining desirable traits for organic commodities;
  5. identifying marketing and policy constraints on the expansion of organic agriculture; and
  6. conducting advanced on-farm research and development that emphasizes observation of, experimentation with, and innovation for working organic farms, including research relating to production and marketing and to socioeconomic conditions.

The program is administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  From 2004 to 2008, USDA grouped OREI together with the Organic Transitions Research Program to form the Integrated Organic Program (IOP), and released one Request for Applications for both programs.  Starting in 2009, NIFA began releasing two separate Requests for Applications, one for each program (in FY 2009, NIFA combined the Organic Transitions Research Program with the water quality program to form the Integrated Organic and Water Quality Program).

Most Recent IOP Grant Year Funding Info – FY 2012

Total Program Funding

$22 million ($18M for OREI; $4M for Organic Transitions Program)

Range of Awards

$1.2 to 2.6 million

Percent of Applications Funded

8% (OREI); 38% (ORG)

Cost Sharing Requirements

Matching funds required if the grant provides a particular benefit to a specific agricultural commodity, but requirement may be waived

2008 Farm Bill Changes

The 2008 Farm Bill adds two new grant purposes to the six existing purposes:

(1) examining optimal conservation and environmental outcomes relating to organically produced agricultural products; and

(2) developing new and improved seed varieties that are particularly suited for organic agriculture.

Section 7206 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008 amends Section 1672B of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990, to be codified at 7 U.S.C. Section 5925b.


The 2008 Farm Bill provides a five-fold increase in mandatory funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative from the $15 million total funding it has received since the 2002 Farm Bill authorization to $78 million total mandatory funding allocated annually in the following way:

Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative Funding











^ Funding for the program for FY2008 remains at $3 million as authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill, but the 2008 Farm Bill increases the funding to $18 million for FY2009, and $20 million for each of FY’s 2010-2012.

In addition to the mandatory funding, the 2008 Farm Bill also includes an authorization for an additional $25 million in discretionary funds each year.

Please note: The funding levels in the chart above show the amount of mandatory funding reserved by the 2008 Farm Bill for this program to be provided through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation.  However, Congress does at times pass subsequent appropriations legislation that caps the funding level for a particular year for a particular program at less than provided by the farm bill in order to use the resulting savings to fund a different program.  Therefore, despite its “mandatory” status, the funding level for a given year could be less than the farm bill dictates should the Appropriations Committee decide to raid the farm bill to fund other programs under its jurisdiction.

Implementation Basics

As mentioned above, OREI has been administered with the Organic Transitions Research Program as part of the Integrated Organic Program.  Beginning with the FY 2009 RFA, NIFA now issues separate RFAs for OREI and the Organic Transitions Research Program (in FY 2009, the latter was combined with the water quality program to form the Integrated Organic and Water Quality Program).  The Request for Applications (RFA) for OREI is usually released each fall and announced in the Federal Register.  However, due to the expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill on October 1st, 2012, no future RFAs will be issued for OREI until Congress reauthorizes the program in a new farm bill or extension package.  Once the RFA is released, there is a six-month period from the date of release to provide comments on the RFA (to impact the design of the following year’s RFA).

For up-to-date application deadlines and links to current RFAs, visit NSAC’s quick guide to farm bill programs and grants:

Additional Resources

The website for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative