NSAC's Blog

New Funding Opportunity for Organic Transition and Education Research for 2021 and 2022

January 12, 2021

Hoop House in Los Jardines Institute Farm, Albuquerque, New Mexico Mon. Jun. 10, 2013.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the Request for Applications (RFA) for the Organic Transitions Program (ORG) in late 2020. Like its counterpart, the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), ORG supports research to improve the competitiveness of organic farming. However, ORG is distinct from OREI in that it focuses on projects that provide research and technical information to farmers who are either newly adopting organic practices or transitioning producers, enabling them to better understand the economic and environmental benefits of organic production.

The ORG RFAs for both FY 2021 and FY 2022 are being published together, and the anticipated funding available for each year is approximately $6.7 million. According to NIFA, the RFA will be developed every two fiscal years based on established priorities and approaches to solving critical agricultural issues. Unlike OREI (which is supported by mandatory funding from the farm bill) ORG relies solely on appropriated funds which are provided at the discretion of Congress each year. Because NIFA is releasing the FY 2022 ORG RFA before appropriated funding has been finalized, the availability of funding for FY 2022 projects may change from current estimates.

Applications Deadlines: FY2021: March 15, 2021; FY2022: March 17, 2022

RFA Overview

As an integrated grant program, all proposed ORG projects must include at least two of the following components: research, education, and/or extension. This means that ORG proposals should include a research component, and at least one other of the two functions – extension and/or education. Educational components are expected to deliver production information to producers, students, extension agents, and other service providers.

Projects should address practices associated with organic crops, organic animal production (including dairy), and systems integrating organic plant and animal production. All project applications are expected to show evidence of stakeholder (including farmer) involvement in problem identification, project planning, implementation, and evaluation.

ORG applications may only be submitted by colleges and universities: 1862 Land-Grant Institutions, 1890 Land-Grant Institutions, 1994 Land-Grant Institutions, and Hispanic-serving agricultural colleges and universities. NIFA is encouraging applicants, including NGOs, to develop partnerships with eligible Land-Grant Universities and other universities and institutions that serve underserved or hard to reach audiences that are engaged in organic research and education.

All fieldwork on organic practices must be done on certified organic land and/or certified facilities. Applicants should refer to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) for organic production standards.

Research Priority Areas

ORG priority areas for FY 2021 and FY 2022 are similar to past RFAs and are as follows:

  1. Document and understand the effects of organic practices on soil health and fertility; greenhouse gas mitigation; enhanced biodiversity; and understanding of weeds, pests, and disease dynamics for better management.
  2. Develop improved technologies, methods, models, and metrics to document, describe, and optimize the ecosystem services and the climate variability adaptation and mitigation ability of organic crop, livestock, and integrated crop-livestock production systems.
  3. Develop cultural practices and other allowable alternatives to substances recommended for removal from NOP’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances
  4. Overcome barriers to organic transition and address major barriers that limit the transition to organic agriculture in a specific region, crop, or animal production systems and develop practical information and tools for producer use.

Note that applications that have significant overlap with the objectives and scope to the OREI program will not be considered for ORG.

Matching Requirements

According to NIFA’s guidance to clarify the current matching requirements, there is a 100 percent match required if the project provides “a particular benefit to a specific agricultural commodity.”  However, NIFA may waive the matching requirement if the agency determines that the:

  • Results of the project, while of particular benefit to a specific commodity, are likely to be applicable to agricultural commodities generally.
  • Projects involve a minor commodity, the projects deals with scientifically important research, and the grant recipient is unable to satisfy the matching fund requirement.

ORG received a modest increase in funding for FY2021. The final spending package, passed in late December 2020, provided $7 million for ORG, up from $6 million from the past couple of years. NSAC and other organic research advocates have been urging Congress to increase research funding for organic research, especially for the ORG program which provides valuable assistance to new and transitioning organic farmers.

How to Apply

More information on how to apply for the FY 2021 and FY 2022 ORG RFAs, as well as additional resources about the program, can be found on NIFA’s website, or through our Grassroots Guide.

Categories: Carousel, General Interest, Grants and Programs, Organic, Research, Education & Extension

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