March 9, 2015
USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has released the Requests for Applications (RFA) for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and the Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Competitive Grants Program – Organic Transitions (ORG).
These two programs are the flagship federal research, education, and extension grant programs for organic production.
Approximately $20 million will be available in Fiscal Year 2015 for OREI. Interested applicants must notify NIFA by April 1, 2015 that they are planning to apply. Full applications are due by April 30, 2015.
For ORG, $4 million is available in Fiscal Year 2015. Interested applicants must to notify NIFA by March 26, 2015 that they are planning to apply. Full applications are due by April 16, 2015.
Farm Bill-Funded Organic Research Program – OREI
OREI funds research that assists those who have already adopted organics. It has eight legislatively defined purposes covering the biological, physical and social sciences. Each year NIFA prioritizes several research areas.
For 2015 there are eight priority areas including one new priority:
OREI is open to individuals and a wide range of organizations including non-profit organizations. Partnerships are encouraged between different types of eligible organizations including non-profits that work with organic producers. NSAC is pleased to see the partnership emphasis.
Agriculture Appropriations-Funded Organic Research Program – ORG
ORG has a narrower mandate than OREI, focusing on barriers limiting the adoption of organic practices. This includes developing ways to limit GMO contamination, alternative pest control tools, and new technologies to assist organic producers. The program also supports research into the ecosystem services aspects of organic production.
For Fiscal Year 2015 ORG has three priorities:
The Fiscal Year 2104, ORG priority dealing with the development of educational tools has been removed from ORG, but a similar priority has been added to OREI.
Unlike OREI, which is open to a wide range of applicants, ORG eligibility is limited to colleges and universities.
Centers of Excellence
OREI is one of several competitive grant programs at NIFA that is subject to the 2014 Farm Bill’s new Center of Excellence language (COE). The new COE criteria will be used as a tiebreaker for equally qualified projects. In a situation where two projects are found to be equally qualified, but there is not enough funding for both and one has included a COE justification in their application, the COE justification will be considered.
NIFA is having a webinar on March 12 to review how it is implementing the Centers of Excellence language.
Matching Funds Requirements
As a result of the 2014 Farm Bill both OREI and ORG’s match requirements have changed.
Previously, the matching requirement could be waived if the project was likely to benefit agriculture generally rather than for a specific commodity or specific state; or if it was on a minor commodity, was important scientific research, and the applicant could not provide the matching funds.
The 2014 Farm Bill changed this to limit the wavier to situations where one of the entities that is part of the project is eligible to receive capacity funds (i.e. a land grant or non-land grant college of agriculture). That partner must have a “substantial” roll in the project.
The match can also be waived one year at a time for projects whose focus is consistent with the priorities of the National, Agriculture Research, Education, Extension, and Economic Advisory Board (NAREEEAB) as explained in the 2014 Research, Education and Economics Action Plan.