NSAC's Blog

Organic Research Awards Announced

September 28, 2016


Photo credit: USDA

Organic farmers and the organic food sector have production, marketing, and policy research and education needs just like the rest of agriculture, yet the federal investment in such research still lags behind the size of the sector. In recent farm bills and government funding bills, however, Congress has taken some steps to begin to address that mismatch. The funding though the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is helping organic producers become more successful and helping encourage new organics producers to bring more organic acreage into production.

Today, USDA announced 26 organic research grants, eight dividing $3.7 million from the Organic Transitions Program (ORG) and 18 dividing $17.6 million from the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension (OREI) program.

This announcement comes on the heels of the Organic Farming Research Foundation’s (OFRF) release of Taking Stock: Analyzing and Reporting Organic Research Investments 2002 – 2014, earlier this summer. The report made several finding including that there has likely been an underinvestment in organic livestock and poultry research compared with research on organic crops. That is why it is great to see three OREI projects focused on livestock health (see below).

As has been common in recent years, the vast majority of OREI recipients are Land Grant Universities with only one grant going to a Non-Governmental Organization. This is likely at least partially the result of a 2014 Farm Bill provision that required all non-land grant applicants to provide a one to one match, greatly increasing the burden on non-land grant applicants. NSAC will be working to remove this provision from the next farm bill.

The topic areas for OREI span the range from efforts to address pest and disease issues with organic cucurbit production in the Midwest (MI), to assessing organic alternatives to the use of celery power (nitrate) in organic cured meat (WI), and to addressing parasite resistance in organic livestock (MS).

We congratulate the awardees!

2016 OREI recipients include:

  • Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Ala, $2,000,000
    • Strengthening organic farming infrastructure
  • Regents of the University of California, Davis, Ca. $1,999,848
    • Balancing soil health and food safety for organic production
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $49,983
    • Planning grant to explore high tunnel fruit and vegetable production in the Southeast
  • USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Peoria, Ill., $1,999,979
    • Organic carrot cultivar evaluation
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $999,917
    • Integration of organic cucurbit science and production in the Midwest
  • Regents of the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn., $1,400,940
    • Enhancing animal care strategies on organic dairy farms
  • Regents of the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn., $1,523,708
    • Multi-regional project for sustained soil health in organic high tunnels
  • USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Southeastern Area, Stoneville, Miss., $1,991,149
    • Parasite resistance in organic livestock
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $1,000,000
    • Resiliency through double cropping and diverse forage mixes
  • Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore., $249,810
    • Curriculum grant to develop an online graduate certificate in organic agriculture
  • Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore. $44,531
    • Planning grant for organic hull-less barley production
  • Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pa., $1,192,110
    • Breeding of organic dairy cows for disease resistance
  • Clemson University, Clemson, S.C., $999,770
    • Pest and disease management for organic peach production
  • Organic Center for Education and Promotion, Brattleboro, Vt., $50,000
    • Conference grant to support the Organic Confluences Conference
  • Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $1,999,950
    • Breeding and Agronomy of Quinoa for organic farming systems
  • Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $49,915
    • Conference grant on the mitigation of GMO contamination in export alfalfa
  • The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, Madison, Wis. $49,969
    • Addressing seed trait needs of organic direct-market growers
  • The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, Madison, Wis. $38,564
    • Alternatives to conventional celery power as a meat curing agent

2016 ORG recipients include:

  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo., $499,990
    • Quantifying green house gas emissions mitigation from organic production systems
  • Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., $369,853
    • Development of an organic crop budgeting tool for producers
  • Board of Regents, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb., $499,718
    • Management technics to speed bio-based mulch degradation
  • University of New Hampshire, Durham, N.H., $499,559
    • Strategies to improve hay qualities on organic dairies for productivity and greenhouse gas emissions mitigation
  • The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $499,415
    • Use of biostimulants and biofertilizers in transitional and certified organic vegetables
  • Pennsylvania State University – University Park, City, Pa., $463,947
    • Metarhizium plant-pest interaction in organic cropping systems.
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Research, College Station, Texas, $475,000
    • Research and Extension project for transitioning acres in the southeast
  • University of Vermont, Burlington, Vt., $469,740
    • Addressing barriers to transitioning to organic maple syrup production.

Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) Program Basics

The 2014 Farm Bill provided $20 million in mandatory annual funding for OREI for Fiscal Years 2014 through 2018. This is the same level of funding it had from 2010-12 under the 2008 Farm Bill. The 2014 Farm Bill did not provide any funding outside of 5 years, so the program will need additional funding to continue to make grants beyond Fiscal Year 2018.

OREI is administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and is a competitive research program that funds research, education, and extension projects to enhance the ability of organic producers and processors to grow and market high quality organic agricultural products. A variety of private and public organizations are eligible to apply for funding through OREI, but there must be farmer involvement in both the design and implementation of the proposed research project

To learn more about OREI visit NSAC’s Grassroots Guide.

Organic Transitions Program (ORG) Basics

For over a decade, ORG has supported the development and implementation of research, extension, and, more recently, education programs to improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers, as well as those who are newly adopting organic practices. The program does not have a mandatory appropriation so its funding is subject to the annual appropriations process. It has received about $4 million in each of the last several years.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers ORG. Colleges and universities are the only entities eligible to apply for funding through the ORG program.

As an integrated program, all ORG projects must include at least two of the following components within the proposed project: research, education, and extension activities.

To learn more about ORG visit NSAC’s Grassroots Guide.


Categories: Organic, Research, Education & Extension

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