OFRF Outlines Research Priorities with NIFA

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With the Farm Bill debate happening across the country, much of OFRF’s policy work has been focused on Congressional outreach on critical issues facing organic farmers. However, just as important as the legislation are the implementation, regulation, and administration of key organic programs. Among those are the organic research programs administered by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Recently, OFRF’s Policy Associate and Research Director sat down with Dr. Mat Ngouajio and Dr. Steve Smith, National Program Leaders at NIFA to discuss the Organic Transitions Program (ORG). A small but important organic research program, ORG focuses on supporting the development and implementation of research, extension, and more recently, education programs to improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers, as well as those who are newly adopting organic practices.

While colleges and universities are the only entities eligible to apply for funding through the ORG program, all project applications are expected to show evidence of stakeholder (including farmer) involvement in problem identification, project planning, implementation, and evaluation.  Projects should address practices associated with organic crops, organic animal production (including dairy), and systems integrating organic plant and animal production. All research activities on organic practices must take place on certified organic land or land in transition to organic production, unless the non-certified land is being used for comparison purposes.

Each year, the program focuses on a discrete set of research topics that are relevant to organic production. In recent years, the program has focused on evaluating the impacts of organic practices on the environment. This has included documenting and understanding the effects of organic practices on ecosystem services, greenhouse gas reduction, soil health, and biodiversity.  Studies have also looked at improvements to technologies and models that optimize the environmental services and climate change mitigation ability of organic farming systems.  Additionally, there have been projects to address major barriers that limit the transition to organic agriculture.

In the most recent meeting, OFRF provided comments to NIFA on the research priorities as identified by organic farmers. By highlighting the research needs identified by organic farmers, OFRF works to ensure the ORG program addresses the challenges facing organic and transitioning farmers. The ORG program is an important investment in organic agricultural research, extension, and higher education programs that help improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers, as well as those who are adopting organic practices.

Read OFRF's Comments Responding to the 2017 Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Competitive Grants Program-Organic Transitions (ORG) here.

More details about ORG and its application process are available on NIFA’s Organic Transitions Program page.

 Image courtesy Adam Davis, ARS.