Secondary Menu

Home > News > Press Releases > Organic Trade Association and The Organic Center applaud bipartisan bill to invest in organic ag research

Organic Trade Association and The Organic Center applaud bipartisan bill to invest in organic ag research


Maggie McNeil
(202) 403-8514
(202) 615-7997
Washington , DC
May 16, 2017
) — 

The Organic Trade Association and The Organic Center on Tuesday applauded Representatives Chellie Pingree  (D-ME), Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) for introducing the Organic Research Act of 2017, which invests in the Department of Agriculture’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) to meet the needs of the growing organic sector. Sales of organic products in the U.S. are now more than $40 billion annually, and expectations are for continued growth as more consumers choose organic. 

The Organic Research Act of 2017 would increase annual funding for OREI from its current $20 million to $50 million a year from 2018 to 2023. Established in 2002, OREI is USDA’s flagship organic research program, supporting research projects that address the critical challenges faced by organic famers in their fields everyday. OREI has funded 163 projects worth almost $150 million since its inception.

Statement from Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO, Organic Trade Association:

“Robust funding for agriculture research is critical for the advancement of organic, and we applaud Representatives Pingree, Newhouse and Panetta  for their  efforts to secure additional resources for USDA’s flagship research program for organic agriculture. The future of organic farmers’ success is tied to discovering new organic crop varieties, developing breakthroughs in pest and weed control, crop rotation, and the development of effective and compliant farm inputs. The Organic Research Act of 2017 invests in the future of organic farming by ensuring the research keeps up with the burgeoning industry.”

Statement from Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Program, The Organic Center:

“The Organic Center is thrilled to see the serious investment in organic research and applauds Representatives Pingree , Newhouse and Panetta  for their  efforts. The Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), organic’s premier competitive grants research program, has spawned a new community of scientists and infrastructure dedicated to organic systems research since it was established in the 2002 farm bill. The Organic Research Act of 2017 will secure long-term investment in the science of organic farming essential for the continued success of farmers.”

Statements from organic researchers:

Dr. John Reganold, Regents Professor of Soil Science & Agroecoloy, Washington State University:

“Federal funding for enhancing the sustainability of organic farming systems is necessary because farmers and consumers are asking for this kind of research and extension. Experience gained from these research and extension efforts will contribute to improvements in the production practices of organic growers and in the ability of conventional and other growers to adopt more sustainable management approaches. Organic agricultural research and extension will expand economic opportunities for farmers and reduce reliance on agrochemicals. Farmers will gain economically, and society will reap rewards because of attention to economic, environmental, and social sustainability.”

  • Dr. Reganold was involved in a $1.6 million grant project awarded to Washington State University, Pullman, in 2012 to develop locally adapted quinoa varieties and organic management practices to increase production in the United States.  The project quantified demand for organic quinoa in the U.S and identified future marketing opportunities, selected and evaluated quinoa varieties for domestic production, developed best management practices. Researchers also focused on developing relationships among farmers and distributors of quinoa to facilitate production and marketing.

Dr. Xin-Gen (Shane) Zhou, Associate Professor, Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center:

"Our organic rice research work wouldn't be possible without the current and future support of the OREI grant. Because of relatively small acreage of organic rice, no rice check-off funding programs support organic rice research and extension. Adequate funding of research and extension is critical to addressing organic rice production issues and providing practical solutions that will increase profitability, economic returns and the overall well-being of rural communities."

  • Dr. Zhou is involved in a $1 million grant project awarded in 2015 focusing on organic rice production practices in the southern U.S. Domestic organic rice production has not been able to keep up with market demand, which has skyrocketed in the last 20 years. This has resulted in increasing pressure from foreign organic rice imports.  The OREI project tackles one of the main challenges to expanding organic rice acreage within the US by developing practical organic rice production practices that could be used by southern growers and result in in improved farm-gate value due to higher yields and reduced losses from weeds, diseases and harmful insects. The Organic Center is collaborating in this project to communicate the findings of the research to the scientific community, organic growers and organic industry members.

Dr. Erin Silva, Assistant Professor, Organic/Sustainable Cropping Systems Specialist, University of Wisconsin-Madison:

“The OREI program has been instrumental in allowing us to build a strong foundation of research for organic agriculture.  The benefits of the OREI program extend beyond the organic agricultural community.  Research supported by this program has furthered our knowledge of soil health, soil biology, and agricultural resilience - knowledge that will contribute to the creation of more sustainable and productive systems across all agricultural approaches and commodities.”

  • Dr. Silva was involved in a $2 million multistate project awarded in 2009 and headed by Oregon State University to increase the proportion of U.S. organic agriculture by increasing the availability of vegetable varieties that are adapted to organic systems. The program developed and released new vegetable varieties, and included outreach and education activities including seed saving demonstrations, field days and extension talks.    

Other recent OREI-funded projects of note:

University of California, Davis

A $2 million grant OREI was awarded in 2016 to a multidisciplinary team of researchers led by the University of California, Davis.  This project addresses one of the most pressing issues for the organic community--how to use manure effectively in organic farming in ways that foster healthy soil and minimize risks to food safety.  This project is currently underway and will be completed in 2020. The Organic Center played a pivotal role in this project in conducing workshops and gathering input on the needs and practices of organic farmers.