The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) released details of 26 grants that will help organic farmers and ranchers improve business operations and bring more organic food to the table. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the grants at the New York Times Food for Tomorrow Conference in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. The grants are funded through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and Organic Transitions Program (ORG).
“America’s organic industry continues to grow and is an increasingly viable option for farmers and ranchers,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “USDA supports research, education and extension to give organic producers science-based best-practices, helping them grow their business by contributing to a healthy America.”
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s recently released 2015 Certified Organic Survey showed that the number of certified farms, acres and sales were all up and the 12,818 certified organic farms in the U.S. sold $6.2 billion in organic products, up 13 percent over 2014. Certified organic products in the U.S. include a wide range of goods from dairy and meat to fruits, vegetables and grains.
OREI investments totaling $17,640,143 in 18 projects will help existing organic producers grow and market high-quality products. These projects give farmers, ranchers and processers more insight into the science and economics of successful organic production.
One of this year’s planning grant recipients, Oregon State University, received $250,000 to develop an online graduate certificate program in organic agriculture. Another award of $1.9 million will go to the Regents of the University of California to conduct a multi-regional analysis on soil health and food safety in organic crop production. 2016 OREI recipients include:
- Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Ala, $2,000,000
- Regents of the University of California, Davis, Ca. $1,999,848
- University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $49,983
- USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Peoria, Ill., $1,999,979
- Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $999,917
- Regents of the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn., $1,400,940
- Regents of the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn., $1,523,708
- USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Southeastern Area, Stoneville, Miss., $1,991,149
- Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $1,000,000
- Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore., $249,810
- Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore. $44,531
- Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pa., $1,192,110
- Clemson University, Clemson, S.C., $999,770
- Organic Center for Education and Promotion, Brattleboro, Vt., $50,000
- Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $1,999,950
- Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $49,915
- The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, Madison, Wis. $49,969
- The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, Madison, Wis. $38,564
Project details can be found at the NIFA website.
The other $3,777,222 was awarded to eight projects through NIFA’s ORG Program that invests in research, education and extension efforts to help existing and transitioning organic livestock and crop producers improve their competitiveness as well as adopt organic practices. Priority areas for 2016 include research on organic practices such as crop rotation, improved technologies and understanding barriers to organic transition.
Kansas State University will use $370,000 to develop an organic crop budgeting tool for producers. Colorado State University will use $500,000 to quantify how organic production systems help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The University of Vermont will use $470,000 for research and extension services to assist in the transition from conventional to organic maple syrup production.
2016 ORG recipients include:
- Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo., $499,990
- Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., $369,853
- Board of Regents, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb., $499,718
- University of New Hampshire, Durham, N.H., $499,559
- The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $499,415
- Pennsylvania State University – University Park, City, Pa., $463,947
- Texas A&M AgriLife Research, College Station, Texas, $475,000
- University of Vermont, Burlington, Vt., $469,740
More information on ORG grants is available on the NIFA website.
To date, NIFA has awarded more than $162 million through the OREI and ORG programs. Previously funded projects include a University of Florida study on sustainable organic strawberry cropping systems for the Southeastern U.S. and a Montana State University project that examined the resilience of organic crop-livestock systems under current and projected climate.
NIFA invests in and advances innovative and transformative research, education and extension to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA support for the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel have resulted in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that are combating childhood obesity, improving and sustaining rural economic growth, addressing water availability issues, increasing food production, finding new sources of energy, mitigating climate variability and ensuring food safety.
USDA is committed to helping organic agriculture grow and thrive through a variety of programs including conservation grants, organic crop insurance, certification cost-share, organic market news and simplified microloans. To learn more about USDA support for organic agriculture, visit our updated organic portal at www.usda.gov/organic.
USDA has significantly expanded its efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation can be found on USDA’s Medium chapter, Growing a Healthier Future. USDA has invested over $1 billion in more than 40,000 local food businesses and infrastructure projects. Additional information about USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems, including by increasing SNAP access at farmers markets, can be found in the New Markets, New Opportunities Medium chapter.