NSAC's Blog

USDA announces awards on organic research

October 27, 2011

On October 25, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced 23 new grants to research and extension programs working to help organic producers and processors grow and market high quality organic agricultural products.  The grants, totaling $19 million, are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through two unique programs: the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and the Organic Transitions Program (ORG).  The grants include more than $15 million in Fiscal Year 2011 grants through the OREI as well as nearly $4 million through the ORG.


OREI is USDA’s flagship competitive grants program specific to organic production.  OREI funds research, education, and extension projects that improve the ability of producers and processors to grow and market high quality organic agricultural products.  Some grant recipients and their projects include:

  • University of California, Santa Cruz, Calif., $2,608,205 – Through a series of seminars, workshops, newsletters and online resources, this project seeks to share research that will help organic growers improve environmental sustainability and economic viability in a comprehensive manner.
  • Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Penn., $2,296,803 – The main goal of this project is to quantify the benefits and trade-offs of using diverse cover crop mixtures in organic feed rotations.
  • Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore., $475,835 – This project will work toward the development of non-antibiotic treatments for the control of fire blight in organic apple and pear crops.

NSAC’s description of the program can be found here.


ORG’s goal is to support the development and implementation of research, extension and higher education programs to improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers, as well as those who are adopting organic practices.  Highlighted grantees include:

  • University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo., $742,217 – This project will improve organic cropping systems by increasing grain productivity, suppressing weeds and providing fertility while reducing negative impacts on the environment.
  • Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont., $742,907 – This project will develop a holistic sheep and organic crop production system that uses targeted sheep grazing to reduce tillage intensity, nitrogen leaching, greenhouse gas emissions and improve soil fertility and soil carbon sequestration.

Farm Bill Research Letter

One of NSAC’s top priorities for the upcoming farm bill is reauthorizing mandatory funding for OREI, along with the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI).

On October 27, NSAC joined 38 other organizations, including Organic Farming Research Foundation, Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, and American Dietetic Association, on a letter to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to advocate for reauthorizing mandatory funding for these critical research programs in their policy recommendations which they will deliver to the Super Committee on November 1st.  To see a copy of the letter, click here.

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment, Grants and Programs, Organic, Research, Education & Extension

One response to “USDA announces awards on organic research”

  1. Jacob Silver says:

    This federal funding, which is a small percentage of the overall federal agricultural budget, is nonetheless significant. It finances research, which is otherwise lacking among the organic farming. This will improve organic farming, and only for a tiny percentage of the Fed. Ag budget.