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USDA Extends $19 Million in Grants to Support Organic Producers and Processors

October 26, 2011 |

USDA National Program for Genetic Improvement of Feed Efficiency in Beef CattleA growing demand for organic and sustainably produced food has led the USDA to announce nearly two dozen new grants to research and extension programs that will help organic producers and processors more effectively market and grow their products.

The 23 grants total $19 million, and are funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through two unique programs: the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative and the Organic Transitions Program.

“As more and more farmers adopt organic agriculture practices, they need the best science available to operate profitable and successful organic farms,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “America’s brand of organic agricultural goods is world-renowned for its high-quality and abundance of selection. These research and extension projects will give producers the tools and resources to produce quality organic food and boost farm income, boosting the ‘Grown in America’ brand.”

Projects across the country in various states including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia were awarded grants for fiscal year 2011. Select projects include the following:

  • A project in New Hampshire to enhance the year-round capacity of Northeast organic dairy producers to produce high quality component-enriched organic milk.
  • A project in Missouri to improve organic cropping systems by increasing grain productivity, suppressing weeds and providing fertility while reducing negative impacts on the environment.
  • A project in Ohio to study the feasibility of incorporating pasture-raised organic poultry and naked oats into a multi-year organic rotation plan.
  • A project in Montana to develop a holistic sheep and organic crop production system that uses targeted sheep grazing to reduce tillage intensity and improve soil fertility and soil carbon sequestration.

A full list of awardees can be found online at the NIFA website.

The grants come on the heels of a trend that’s been growing in the United States since the late 1990s, according to a press release from the USDA. It states that more than two-thirds of consumers in the U.S. buy organic products at least occasionally, and 28 percent buy them weekly. The ability to reduce one’s reliance on costly nonrenewable resources as well as the potential to receive a price premium for in demand organic produce has persuaded many farmers to transition from conventional to organic farming systems.

The grants include more than $15 million through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, a program that funds projects that help organic producers and processors enhance their ability to grow and market high quality products.

The remaining $4 million comes from the Organic Transitions Program, which seeks to “support the development and implementation of research, extension and higher education programs to improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers, as well as those who are adopting organic practices,” according to its website.

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