USDA, others investing US$19M in 23 grants for research, extension programs aimed at helping organic producers, processors grow and market organic agricultural products

WASHINGTON , October 25, 2011 (press release) – Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced today 23 new grants to research and extension programs working to help organic producers and processors grow and market high quality organic agricultural products. The grants, totaling $19 million in all, are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through two unique programs: the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and the Organic Transitions Program (ORG).

"As more and more farmers adopt organic agriculture practices, they need the best science available to operate profitable and successful organic farms," said 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."

The grants announced today include more than $15 million in 2011 grants through the OREI. Supporting the development of sustainable agricultural and forestry practices, including organic farming, to both reduce negative impacts on the environment and keep U.S. farmers competitive is a priority of USDA research.

In addition, the grants announced today include nearly $4 million through the ORG. In FY 2011, 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.

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.

Fiscal Year 2011 projects were awarded in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia. Highlights include:

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.

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