General

Organic Farming Improves Soil Health

Organic soil management practices contribute to soil health and provide ecosystem services such as the minimization of nutrient losses to the environment and the reduction of plant susceptibility to disease. The journal article “Soil Health and Related Ecosystem Services in Organic Agriculture,” by Lynette K. Abbott and David A.C. Manning provides a useful review of the soil building benefits of organic farming.

New Farmers Focus on Sustainability with Help from USDA

Cameron Green and Eric Wittenbach bought their 8.5 acre farm in Okanogan, Washington eight years ago, with the intention to make it as sustainable as possible. However, as beginning small-scale famers, they knew they would need some help.

Their work with a local forestland owner led them to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), where they began working with a conservation planner to develop a strategy for growing organic crops on their land now, and return it to a native, natural system in the future.

Organic Farming Handbook Available from USDA

The National Organic Farming Handbook published by USDA is now available to download. It provides an overview of organic agriculture and the National Organic Program (NOP), as well as information on conservation planning and activities.

FDA Releases New Food Safety Rules

On November 13th, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced major steps toward preventing foodborne illness by finalizing rules implementing the bipartisan Food Safety Modernization Act. These safety standards are a significant step toward strengthening our food safety system.

Foodborne illness affects roughly 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) in the United States each year. The objective of these rules is to help prevent problems across the entire food system, rather than waiting to act until illness occurs. The rules apply to produce farms and make importers accountable for verifying that imported food meets U.S. safety standards.

Register Now: 2016 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium

 

November 11, 2015 - Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) invites you to attend the 2016 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium, a pre-conference at the annual EcoFarm Conference, on January 20, 2016 at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, CA.

Jointly hosted by OFRF and the University of California, Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension (KARE) Center, this event provides an opportunity for researchers, farmers and people from across the US to meet and share knowledge on organic farming research.

Organic Adoption of Field Crops Low Despite Opportunity

An article published by USDA on November 2nd takes a look at why—despite strong interest in organic food and potentially higher returns—organic adoption of corn, soybeans and wheat  in the U.S. remains low. According to the article, the main reason could be a lack of information about the relative costs and returns of organic and conventional production systems on commercial farms, and the performance of farms choosing the organic approach.

OFRF Currently Accepting Research Proposals

November 5, 2015 - The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) grants program is currently accepting research proposals from applicants residing in Canada, Mexico and the United States. In particular, OFRF encourages farmers, ranchers, graduate students, early career researchers, veterans, and Extension personnel to consider applying. 

Research Yields More Nutritious, Sustainable and Delicious Grains

Field crops such as wheat, which are grown on large-scale acreage, present organic growers with unique challenges in managing weeds, pests and fertility. Dr. Stephen Jones, a professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Washington State University and Director of the WSU Bread Lab, received several OFRF research grants between 2001 and 2003 in support of his development of wheat varieties for organic farmers.

Today, Jones continues to breed wheat for sustainable, perennial and organic systems. He was featured in the Sunday New York Times Magazine on November 1st. In the article, Bread is Broken, Jones explains the history of wheat—from preindustrial wheat, which once “was a living library of flavors,” to modern technologies where “whiteness, hardness and uniformity took precedence over flavor, nutrition and novelty.”

USDA Update on Federal Funding for Organic

Betsy Rakola, Organic Specialist for Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, made a presentation on federal funding for organic programs at the 30th annual Natural Products Expo East Tradeshow and conference in September. Over 25,000 people attended the conference.

Rakola provided an update of the Organic Working Group, the federal funding available for organic programs and the USDA strategic plan for organic agriculture. Her presentation covered the many hats the USDA wears for organic farmers, including risk management, conservation and research. These efforts are monitored by the USDA Organic Working Group chaired by AMS Administrator, Anne Alonzo, and includes staff from various agencies.

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