NSAC's Blog

Organic Farming Research Foundation Report Identifies Top Challenges Facing Farmers

October 11, 2016


Photo credit: USDA.

Photo credit: USDA.

Editor’s Note: This article is a guest blog by Brise Tencer, Executive Director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF). OFRF is a National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) member organization based in Santa Cruz and a lead partner on our organic research policy work.

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is thrilled to announce the publication of our 2016 National Organic Research Agenda. This report is a critical component to our mission of expanding organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and more acreage into organic production. Across the U.S., organic farmers shared their concerns with us. We are working to make those voices heard among policy makers and researchers to ensure the unique needs of organic farmers are represented in future policies and research investments.

The recommendations in the report are based on our 2015 survey of organic farmers, nationwide listening sessions with organic farmers, and a review of key documents and recommendations from other organizations, including the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

The report is primarily based on information organic farmers shared with OFRF regarding their production challenges and corresponding research needs. We received input from well over 1,000 organic farmers and ranchers across the country.

Top Organic Research Priorities

Our effort to have their needs paramount in the future of research led us to identify the following top priorities for intensified research funding:

  • Soil health and fertility management
  • Weed management
  • Nutritional benefits of organic food
  • Insect management
  • Disease management

In addition to these top priorities, OFRF recommends research on:

  • Agricultural biodiversity
  • GMO impacts and avoidance
  • Livestock health
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Organic breeding of plant and animals
  • Social science on marketing and policy regarding organic production and transition

The report is an update of OFRF’s 2007 National Organic Research Agenda. Conducted nearly a decade ago. We found that some of the top areas identified for research prioritization in 2007, such as plant and animal breeding and soil health, remain important areas of need in the organic sector today.

The 2016 report also identifies region specific priorities for research and outreach based on the top challenges cited. For example, the issue of water use and irrigation efficiency is a top organic research priority in the Western region, whereas GMO impacts and avoidance is a major priority in the North Central region.

Organic Research in the Next Farm Bill

It is clear from this report that those of us working towards a more sustainable agricultural system need to work together to significantly increase investments in organic agriculture. Although the organic community made progress with earlier Farm Bills, organic research continues to receive a disproportionally small percentage of federal research funding compared to its market share in the U.S. economy.

With the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization on the horizon in 2018, it is time to begin to finally reverse that trend. We need to harness the growing interest of consumers and farmers in organic and sustainable agriculture, and advocate for increased investments in organic research to ensure the continued success and adoption of organic farming systems in the United States.

The full report is available to download at OFRF’s website.

Categories: Organic, Research, Education & Extension

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