Special to The SUN
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the availability of $17.6 million in funding to support research and outreach activities that will help growers, producers and processors find innovative ways to improve organic agriculture.
The grants are being funded through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), a program that is administered by USDA’s National Institutes of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
“Over the past six years, USDA has strengthened programs that support organic producers as they grow, thrive and respond to increasing consumer demand for organic products,” said Vilsack. “The projects funded through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative will help identify innovative solutions to critical challenges facing organic agriculture, ultimately strengthening local markets, improving rural economies and expanding access to healthy food for Americans.”
The purpose of the OREI program is to fund high-priority research, education and extension projects that enhance the ability of producers and processors who have already adopted organic standards to grow and market high-quality organic products. Priority concerns include biological, physical and social sciences, including economics. Past projects include a project at Washington State University to document the ecological role of wild birds on vegetable farmers, providing owners with practical, science-based recommendations for wild-bird management and a joint project between Pennsylvania State University, Delaware State University and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore to predict benefits and costs of cover crop mixtures in the context of regional climate, soil and management variability; empower organic farmers to use mixtures to meet their farm-specific goals; and to integrate this research into undergraduate organic education to further prepare the next generation of growers and researchers.