Organic is one of the fastest growing sectors of agriculture – over the last several years the organic food industry has been creating jobs at four times the national average. Unfortunately, growth in the organic sector has been held back from reaching its full potential due to a lack of investment in research, education programs, and extension resources. Research is the foundation for growth in any sector, including agriculture. Farmers of all production types – sustainable, organic, conventional, or otherwise – need access to the latest research, tailored to their specific growing needs and regions, in order to keep their operations sustainable and thriving longterm.
On Tuesday, May 16, Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) introduced the “Organic Agriculture Research Act of 2017,” which will spur innovative research and extension programs by increasing funding for the Organic Agriculture Extension and Research Initiative (OREI) from $20 million to $50 million annually. The bill also extends the program’s authorization to 2023.
Since 2004, OREI has funded more than 160 projects that specifically address the most critical challenges faced by organic farmers nationwide. An increased investment in this crucial research and extension program will help address both longstanding and emerging issues facing the organic industry, including:
- Supply chain development
- Productivity limitations
- Regional adaptations, nutrient efficiency, weed tolerance, and disease resistance
- Barriers to industry entry
- The impacts of genetic engineering, and cross-contamination prevention
- Livestock health, nutrition & parasite prevention
- The efficacy and environmental sustainability of industry regulations
Because OREI does not have baseline funding beyond the 2014 Farm Bill, which would guarantee a certain amount of funding into the future, the program will run out of money on September 30, 2018. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is committed to supporting the organic sector and the research that underpins organic production systems. We will continue to work with Representatives Pingree, Newhouse, and Panetta, and with other members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to ensure that the 2018 Farm Bill recognizes the importance of agricultural research and increases its investment in programs like OREI.