USDA Announces $91.5 Million for Organic, Specialty Crop and Citrus Research and Extension

March 10, 2015 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the availability of $91.5 million in grants for agricultural research and extension services, with funding targeted toward organic, specialty and citrus crops. The grants will be funded through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), and the Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program (CDRE), a subset of SCRI.

Of the total, $17.5 million will be available through OREI, $49 million will be available through SCRI, and CDRE will have $25 million to disburse.  

The OREI grants will prioritize biological, physical and social science research, including economics, aimed at helping certified organic growers and processors to grow and market high-quality organic products. They will also support extension services and education, with the goal of delivering practical, research-based information to organic growers across the U.S.

The SCRI funding is aimed at developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specialty crops ranging from fruits and vegetables, to nuts and nursery crops. The CDRE grants will focus on research and extension efforts to improve citrus health, which is under siege nationally by serious pests and disease. The SCRI and CDRE grants are available to researchers investigating both organic and conventional approaches, while the OREI grants are limited to organic research issues.  

Brise Tencer, executive director of Organic Farming Research Foundation, applauded the USDA’s latest annoucement of funding, which will support an increasingly diverse range of crop and livestock research.

“We are very excited to see this substantial focus and support for organic agricultural research,” Tencer said. "In additon to the organic-only OREI grants, we strongly encourage organic researchers to consider applying for the specialty crop or citrus disease funding. The problems with Asian Citrus Psyllid and Citrus Greening Disease have been particularly devastating for organic citrus growers."

Tencer noted that U.S. domestic production of organic food products has falllen far behind consumer demand.

“The USDA is helping American farmers by supporting crucial research that will allow them to meet the fast-growing demand for organic farm products,” Tencer said. 

OFRF is a key advocate for USDA funding of organic farming research, and was instrumental in the creation of OREI in the 2002 farm bill, along with US Sen. Tom Harkin D-IA. The grants announced today are administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and represent a portion of the USDA’s commitment to research outlined in the 2014 farm bill.

Notification of Intent to Submit an Application to OREI is due on April 1, 2015. Full applications are due April 30, 2015. Please see the request for applications for specific program requirements.

SCRI pre-applications are due March 30, 2015, and full applications are due July 2, 2015. Please see the request for applications for specific program requirements. A supplemental Request For Applications for CDRE will be released subsequently.

Click here to read the USDA press release.

Image courtesy USDA

Maria Gaura - OFRF