USDA Organic Research Program Stalled Until New Farm Bill Passes

With the expiration of the 2014 Farm Bill on September 30, 2018, Congress allowed a wide range of important food and farm programs to also expire. These programs lost their authority to operate, and in some cases their funding. Among the programs thrown into limbo by this delayed Farm Bill is the main competitive organic research grant program at USDA, the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). 

While, USDA was able to make organic research grants for 2018 (a more detailed overview of 2018 projects can be found here for OREI and here for ORG projects), OREI is now stranded without funding or authorization until a new Farm Bill is passed into law. While the ORG program is subject to annual Congressional appropriations, it is a much smaller program compared with OREI. Next year’s appropriations package has also not been passed by Congress.  This means, that until a new Farm Bill is signed into law, research for organic farming systems will slow to a trickle, and could stop completely.

This is a challenge for farmers who rely on OREI and ORG-funded research to address pest, disease, supply chain, and other barriers to organic production, and one that OFRF has been working hard to overcome. For almost three decades OFRF has been on the forefront of the organic movement, awarding $3.2M in research grants across the United States. Our research projects have resulted in scientific improvements in plant breeding, soil health, water use, and carbon sequestration. Many of our grant recipients have used initial OFRF awards to leverage significant additional funding from state and federal programs such as OREI. Funding innovative work at the early stages becomes and enhanced and very impactful when researchers are able to grow their programs and continue to work at a larger scale.

Donate here to support OFRF’s organic programs. As a result of OFRF’s research, education, and outreach efforts thousands of farmers have taken advantage of cutting-edge research and trainings. This is more important than ever with the expiration of the Farm Bill.

With Congress unlikely to return to Washington, DC before the November elections, our focus is to help pass a good, bipartisan Farm Bill before the end of 2018. In a sweeping show of bipartisanship, the Senate voted 86-11 to pass their well-rounded version of the Farm Bill. However, negotiations have stalled and we are running out of legislative days left 2018. 

Now is the time to rally around adopting a new bill this year. We urge members of Congress to pass a Farm Bill based on the Senate version, which included historic support for several key organic programs. At this point, even a short-term Farm Bill extension may leave key organic programs without any funding.