May 25, 2023- Today, the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) delivered to the leadership of House Agriculture Committees a letter in support of the Strengthening Organic Agriculture Research (SOAR) Act. OFRF and the undersigned believe this bill represents significant investments into answering research questions that organic producers continue to grapple with.
“We are excited to be able to work with Organic Champions in Congress to help ensure there are resources available to support the success of organic farmers and ranchers across the nation. Over the last several years OFRF has collected robust information from farmers about their research and education needs and these bills would provide much needed investment in solutions. These bills are also an important signal to early career researchers that organic agriculture research is an important, respected, and securely-funded area to engage in,” Brise Tencer, OFRF Executive Director.
The 2018 Farm Bill was an important step towards recognizing the status of the organic agriculture industry, OREI reached mandatory funding levels. The organic agriculture market has continued to mature over the past five years of the Farm Bill, partly due to this increased investment. For this growth to continue, organic producers must be given their fair share of resources dedicated to agricultural research. This bill intends to do just that with the 2023 Farm Bill.
In the House, Representatives Newhouse(WA-04), Panetta(CA-19), and Pingree(ME-01) are all leading the way, introducing the Strengthening Organic Agriculture Research Act. This legislation does three things that would increase the resilience of U.S. agriculture, create economic opportunity for producers, and result in improved ecological vitality of the landscape:
- Bolsters the funding for the Organic Research and Extension Initiative. The SOAR Act would provide stair-stepped budget increases to the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), from $60 million in 2024 to $100 million in 2028.
- Provides Congressional authorization and direction for the Researching the Transition to Organic Program. The bill would also provide first-time Congressional authorization for the Researching the Transition to Organic Program (RTOP), currently known as the Organic Transition Research Program (ORG), with an authorization for appropriations of $10 million a year from 2024-2026 and $20 million from 2027-2028.
- Bolsters funding for the Organic Production and Market Data Initiative (ODI). Providing $10 million over the life of the Farm Bill, the SOAR Act would double the farm bill funding for this crucial joint-initiative of three USDA Agencies: NASS, Economic Research Service (ERS), and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The data produced through the ODI is essential for the development of risk management products and targeted market development. The SOAR Act also directs ERS to conduct a full, systematic evaluation of the economic impact organic agriculture has on rural and urban communities, taking into account economic, ecological, and social factors.
In the Senate, we are working with Agriculture Committee leaders to introduce a comprehensive companion to the SOAR Act. We look forward to announcing this bill in the coming weeks with broad support.
View the final SOAR Act sign-on letter here.
Download an informational one-pager to learn more about What the SOAR Act does, Why it’s Important, and How you can Help
Statements of support for the SOAR Act:
“Organic Valley applauds congressional leaders who recognize the importance of public investments in organic research. Research enabled by this legislation represents the building of collective knowledge to help organic farmers gain on-farm efficiencies. It allows businesses like ours to bring to bear a confidence and commitment in partnership with academic institutions and federal agencies to continuously improve the organic farming systems. This is necessary as organic is part of the larger agricultural landscape and pressures we all are facing to balance natural resource protection and grow good food for consumers in the U.S. and globally. ” Adam Warthesen, Senior Director of Government & Industry Affairs, Organic Valley.
“Research is key to tackling the many challenges farmers face and organic research benefits all farmers. In fact, many of the farming practices embraced by organic farmers, such as cover cropping and other regenerative agricultural practices, are now being adopted across the board. NOC is thrilled to see the introduction of the Strengthening Organic Agriculture Research Act to provide resources for the ecosystem-based approach that is so central to successful organic farming.” Abby Youngblood, Executive Director, National Organic Coalition
“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) applauds Representatives Newhouse, Panetta, and Pingree for their steadfast leadership in supporting organic farmers and ranchers. The SOAR Act makes meaningful investments in providing organic producers with the research and tools they need to continue to improve upon already climate friendly and resilient farming systems and meet the growing market demand for organic products.” Nick Rossi, Policy Associate, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
“The Organic dairy industry suffers from a lack of available data for farmers to make decisions on their individual contract with their buyers, assessment of their economic future and risk management. Organic Dairy has no safety net program because USDA and Congress do not have the data available to develop one. They are left exposed to dramatic market fluctuations outside their control.” Ed Maltby, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance
“Organic research is funded at a tiny fraction of overall agricultural research yet benefits the whole farming community – an investment in organic research is an investment in the future of our food system!” Katie Baildon, Policy Manager, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY)
“A robust investment in organic agricultural research is an investment in a climate-stable and food-secure future for the US and the world” Mark Schonbeck, Virginia Association for Biological Farming
“Organic Research Programs have not only been a benefit to our faculty and staff working on organic agriculture, but have also supported the transition of a lot of our partnering farms in the southeast.” Crystal M. James, JD, MPH, Tuskegee University
“As a leader in organic rice and rice products, we strongly support the further development of organic farming and foods. We urge Congress to do the same with this legislation.” Natalie Carter, Lundberg Family Farms
“Research funding for organic agriculture needs to be increased and acknowledged as a critical and instrumental strategy in carrying agriculture forward “ John McKeon, Taylor Farms