The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded $19 million to research and extension programs to help organic producers and processors grow and market high quality organic agricultural products. About $4 million of that will go to researchers in the Southern region.
“America’s organic farmers rely on quality science to keep their operations profitable and successful,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “These grants will give our organic farmers the skills and tools they need to be competitive and continue producing abundant and high-quality crops.”
The grants disbursed today include more than $14 million in 2012 grants through the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). This program focuses on helping producers and processors who have already adopted organic standards to grow and market high quality organic agricultural products. OREI’s priority concerns include biological, physical and social sciences – with an emphasis on research and outreach that assist farmers and ranchers with whole farm planning. For more OREI information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov/fo/organicagricultureresearchand extensioninitiative.cfm.
Drs. Chris Reberg-Horton of N.C. State University and Qixin Zhong from the University of Tennessee each received OREI grants. Reberg-Horton will create an organic plant breeding center, and Zhong plans to develop alternative post-harvest washing solutions for organic fresh produce.
In addition, the grants disbursed today include more than $3 million through the Organic Transitions Program (ORG). In 2012, ORG focused on environmental services provided by organic farming systems that support soil conservation and contribute to climate change mitigation. Practices and systems to be addressed include those associated with organic crops, organic animal production (including dairy) and organic systems integrating plant and animal production. More information on the program can be found online at www.nifa.usda.gov/fo/organictransitionsprogram.cfm.
Shuijin Hu from N.C. State University and Fugen Dou from Texas AgriLife Research received Organic Transitions grants. Hu plans to assess greenhouse gas mitigation potential of organic systems, and Dou seeks to improve soil quality, carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emission in organic rice production.
The OREI and ORG grants are disbursed as authorized under the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, also known as the Farm Bill.
Since the late 1990s, U.S. organic production has seen significant growth. U.S. producers are increasingly turning to certified organic farming systems as a potential way to decrease reliance on nonrenewable resources, capture high-value markets and premium prices, and boost farm income. Today more than two-thirds of U.S. consumers buy organic products at least occasionally, and 28 percent buy organic products weekly.