NSAC's Blog

Over $17 Million Available for Organic Research and Extension Initiative Grants

October 21, 2016

Photo credit: USDA.

Photo credit: USDA.

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.

Project Categories

  1. Integrated Project Proposals: Integrated projects proposals, which can include projects of different scopes – Multi-Regional, Regional, and Targeted ­– will be those that will contribute to at least two of the three main OREI’s agricultural knowledge system of research, education and/or extension. Multi-Regional Integrated Projects will receive a maximum of $2,000,000, Regional Integrated Projects will receive a maximum of $1,000,000, and Targeted Projects will receive a maximum of $500,000. Projects must include a plan for disseminating project outcomes.
  1. Conference Proposals: For projects focused on creating or supporting workshops and symposia to bring together different organic stakeholders in order to advance the organic production sector, the will be categorized as a conference proposal. These projects will be awarded a maximum of $50,000 and projects must be carried out within one year of receiving this grant.
  1. Research, Education and Extension Planning Proposals: Applicants for these proposals are generally expected to have limited resources for larger grant proposals and should show evidence for the projects’ benefits in addition to its expected success rate. These awards will be limited to $50,000 and must be used within one year of receiving this project grant.
  1. Curriculum Development Proposals: For projects that help to form new university (both undergraduate and graduate) curriculum in organic agriculture. Proposals are encouraged to include partnerships with multiple academic institutions in order to facilitate the most effective instruction within a given grant’s capacity. These grants will be awarded at a maximum of $250,000 for a project period of two years total.

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:

  • Livestock-crop integration as a priority for organic animal production systems.
  • The FY 2016 priority for the development and dissemination of new organic seed varieties suited for regionally based organic production.
  • The inclusion of Planning Grants as an eligible category. Planning grants are critical for many limited resource organizations, and help to ensure organizations of all sizes and capacities are served by OREI support.

NSAC recommendations adopted into the FY 2017 RFA include:

  • Inclusion of a more comprehensive set of organic seed system project goals. Added goals included: weed management, nutrient efficiency, and performance in soil-improving and climate-friendly systems such as minimum till.
  • Increased clarity on the use of targeted technologies, ensuring that they are used in ways that protect natural resources and preserve the environment.
  • Increased focus and emphasis on livestock breeding and evaluations for organic production systems.

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.

Categories: Grants and Programs, Organic, Research, Education & Extension

2 responses to “Over $17 Million Available for Organic Research and Extension Initiative Grants”

  1. We are small goat/sheep farmstead fromagerie in Dayton, wa. Would love to know more about how to apply for a grant. Check out our website, p!ease Let me know how to proceed, thank you, Joan Monteillet 509-876-1429

  2. NSAC says:

    Thanks for your comment Joan! You can start by checking out our Grassroots Guide, specifically the “Farm Bill Programs & Grants – Overview” table for different grant/loan programs. We’ve also listed eligibility requirements, deadlines, and links to more detailed information there. Let us know if you have any questions!