why organic

Did you know there are many ways to support organic farmers?

October 14, 2020 – Each day our small and mighty team works tirelessly to fund innovative organic research, provide the most up-to-date, science-based, farmer-led resources to farmers, advocate for organic farming as a climate solution in Washington, DC, and educate consumers about best organic farming practices.

Over our 30 year history, we have been inspired and motivated by the ongoing support of our community and the many ways they contribute to our work. Long-term support such as sustaining gifts, bequests, and donating stocks, not only supports us today—it enables us to plan and allocate resources for the work ahead of us. For that, we are truly grateful.

We are extremely proud to do this work, but we can’t do it without your support. We don’t charge membership dues or collect association fees. We fundraise for every dollar, and we make sure those dollars go directly to on-farm research, educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of organic farmers and ranchers. When you give to OFRF, we provide organic farmers the information and resources they need to be successful. For free. 

So, let’s explore the many ways you can contribute to OFRF. While most people give through our online donation page, there are other options that provide even greater stability to our work. No matter how you give, we are so honored to be part of your giving story. Your gift ensures that organic farmers are supported with unbiased research, up-to-date free educational materials, and federal advocacy that fights for their needs.

Sustaining Donation – By setting up a sustaining gift, we can better plan for future work since we have a clear idea of our financial stability. Whether it be weekly, monthly, or quarterly, our online donation page allows you to ensure you can give on a regular basis.

Bequests – There’s no better way to show your support of organic farmers and the fight to curb climate change than naming OFRF in your will. Bequests offer a huge tax benefit as they are fully deductible from your estate. You can add the bequest when updating your will or when writing a new will. If you have chosen to leave a bequest to OFRF, please let us know so we can plan ahead. We look forward to honoring your commitment to our work. 

Donor Advised Funds (DAFS) – Donor Advised Funds are like your own individual philanthropic fund that handles the administration of charitable contributions, all while receiving an immediate tax deduction. OFRF can receive DAF funds through electronic transfer or check. 

Stocks – Giving stocks allows you to give more than you might normally in cash. It’s easy to do using our simple form or if you have a Donor Advised Fund. Stock donations also allow you to avoid capital gains tax. 

Retirement funds – If you are 70 years or older, you can transfer Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) directly from your IRA account to OFRF. QCDs are excluded from the taxable income from your retirement account. The process varies depending on the retirement fund you hold, so we suggest researching or discussing with your tax professional. 

Vehicles – Do you have an old car or vehicle that you are itching to get rid of? You can donate it to OFRF using Car Easy. They handle all of the paperwork, pick-up your vehicle and provide OFRF with the donated value.

Now that you’ve learned about all the ways you can give, what are you waiting for?! We are in a pivotal moment, where together we can advance best organic practices that build soil health and curb climate change. Organic agricultural practices are a climate change solution, so we hope you can donate today to help us bring more acres into organic!

If you have any questions or want to discuss these options, please send Haley Baron, our Partnership and Development Manager an email at give@ofrf.org. Thank you!

 

By |2020-10-15T16:14:09+00:00October 15th, 2020|News|

Creating Climate Resilient Organic Crop Production Systems

October 8, 2020 – The rising temperatures and changing rain patterns associated with climate change have created an urgent need to increase resiliency in our crop production systems. OFRF provided a research grant to Dr. Erin Silva in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison (UW-Madison) to examine the ability of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF) to enhance soil moisture retention and increase access to nutrients.

An important aim of organic production is to improve overall soil health. AMF form symbiotic relationships with the roots of host plants through which plants receive nutrients. AMF also indirectly promote plant health through their contribution to soil building. Thriving AMF communities increase the water-holding capacity of soils through the deposition of proteins. This project sought to determine whether the genetic variances between popular cultivars of carrot would promote the growth of different AMF communities over the growing season and alter the quantity of AMF-associated proteins in soils.

The researchers evaluated the role of carrot cultivar on AMF-related proteins, an important factor influencing soil health improvements related to AMF communities. The project was done in collaboration with six organic farmer members of the Fairshare Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Coalition in Wisconsin during the 2017 and 2018 field seasons.

Silva’s recently submitted final report shows that while there were no obvious trends toward increases in AMF-associated soil proteins that correlated to any cultivar of carrot, most sites had moderate changes in protein quantities from spring to fall (with no clear pattern). One site had consistently increased fall quantities of AMF-associated proteins compared to spring quantities for all cultivars for both years (2017 and 2018). The research team also observed more intensive weed management at this site. Storm-related flooding impacted some farms during the project, causing considerable losses at multiple sites.

According to the research team, the project provided important preliminary data in two areas that warrant further research. First, particularly among open-pollinated cultivars, it would be beneficial to screen diverse genotypes for enhanced AMF colonization, to be used either directly by farmers or included in breeding programs. Second, preliminary data shows some interesting interactions in the role of AMF in increasing soil proteins, with their role in enhanced soil aggregation in highly disturbed environments. The team suggests it be valuable to further investigate the role of cultivar selection and AMF inoculation on soil aggregation in heavily tilled/cultivated phases of the organic crop rotation, and in intensive vegetable production.

Outreach included reports to the farmer cooperators, as well as presentations at organic vegetable field days. As a follow up to this work, the researchers aim to use sequencing technology to identify the AMF community constituents present in samples obtained during this project. This data may be used to correlate species or genus abundance with soil protein quantities to identify whether specific communities contribute to greater protein deposits in agricultural soils.

Read the final report here.

By |2020-10-08T21:33:53+00:00October 8th, 2020|News|

Climate and Agriculture Legislation Roundup

October 8, 2020 – Editor’s Note: The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) created a blog series on Rep. Chellie Pingree’s Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA), the first comprehensive piece of legislation introduced in the House of Representatives addressing climate change and agriculture. Blogs one through seven focus on specific provisions within the ARA; whereas this eighth and final blog in the series summarizes current climate and agriculture legislation. This final blog was co-authored by Billy Hackett, Policy Fellow at NSAC, and Cristel Zoebisch, Climate Policy Associate at NSAC in partnership with the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

Learn more about the ARA by reading blogs one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven here.

As severe weather events and wildfires have ravaged the country during the last few months and the presidential election nears, the climate crisis continues to be a major topic of discussion on Capitol Hill. Against the backdrop of negotiations to avoid a government shutdown on September 30 and additional pandemic relief, legislators in the House of Representatives passed the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act(H.R. 4447), a broad, clean energy package that would invest billions of dollars to promote research and development for technologies to address climate change. The bill is primarily focused on the transition to clean energy production and is viewed as a down payment in the fight against the climate crisis. There were a few amendments introduced and accepted as part of the bill that focus on agriculture, including Amendment #68, introduced by Rep. Pingree (D-ME-1) and Rep. Spanberger (D-VA-7). Their amendment calls for inclusion of agricultural and grazing practices and forest management and afforestation as additional priorities in the Department of Energy carbon removal program established in the bill.

The Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act will establish a research, development, and demonstration program to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere on a large scale, prioritizing technologies and strategies that have the potential to meet emissions reduction goals outlined in the Paris Agreement. The Pingree-Spanberger amendment now widens the bill’s focus beyond high tech carbon capture to include agriculture and forestry practices. While this particular bill includes only minor agriculture provisions, there are many more bills that have been introduced in both chambers of Congress that address agriculture and climate change more directly and comprehensively that could also be incorporated into future climate legislation.

In this blog post, we summarize key bills that center on agriculture and its role in addressing the climate crisis. We begin with bills that have been introduced in both chambers, followed by those introduced only in the House of Representatives, those only introduced in the Senate, and finally we present resolutions and other proposals. While this is not a comprehensive list of all climate and agriculture bills, this list reflects key pieces of legislation to track as policy proposals around climate change continue to evolve on Capitol Hill.

Bicameral

Climate Stewardship Act of 2019 (H.R.4269 / S.2452)

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM-1) introduced the Climate Stewardship Act of 2019 to provide incentives for agricultural producers to carry out climate stewardship practices. While much of the bill is focused on forestry and wetlands, here we summarize the agricultural land conservation provisions in the legislation. Most notably, the bill would authorize increased funding for several federal conservation programs. Mandatory funding for both the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) would increase from approximately $1 and $2 billion per year, respectively, to $7 billion per year for each program, with all additional funds dedicated to financing new climate stewardship practices. The legislation would also increase funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) from $300 million annually to $1 billion by 2028 and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) from $450 million to $900 million per year, as well as finance 13 million additional acres as part of the Conservation Reserve Program(CRP). Funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) would increase from $50 million annually to $3 billion by 2024. The legislation would also increase funding for the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) by a factor of 10 to $500 million, in addition to investing $25 million per year in urban farms and community gardens in low-income areas.

Food Date Labeling Act of 2019 (H.R.3981 / S.2337)

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Food Date Labeling Act of 2019to reduce unnecessary waste by standardizing the date labels on food which cause a great deal of consumer confusion. In the absence of federal regulations related to date labels on food products, inconsistent and ambiguous “Best If Used By” and “Use By” labels have become common. These labels contribute to the estimated 90 percent of Americans who prematurely throw away food that is perfectly safe to consume. This bill lays out clear guidelines by which food manufacturers may define and use the aforementioned labels, with the former a “quality date” which denotes the food’s optimal consumption period has passed and the latter a “discard date” which means the food is no longer safe to be consumed. Establishing this common standard is expected to decrease instances of premature food waste. Between 2010 and 2016, food loss and waste accounted for 8 to 10 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions globally (IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land). The Food Date Labeling Act of 2019would help decrease food waste by ensuring clear labels help consumers minimize food waste at home.

Farmer Driven Conservation Outcomes Act of 2020 (H.R. 6182 / S.3429)

Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) and Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11) and Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA-15) introduced the Farmer Driven Conservation Outcomes Act of 2020 to establish a clear process for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to measure, evaluate, and report on federal conservation program outcomes. The authorized system would quantify the environmental benefits of conservation activities, establishing a clear empirical foundation upon which farmers, researchers, and policymakers may understand which climate stewardship practices are most effective by region and which practices to implement to improve soil health, air and water quality, water conservation, and wildlife habitat. Ultimately, this bipartisan bill will inform how climate change adaptation and mitigation may be maximized through farmer conversation efforts.

National Climate Bank Act (H.R.5416 / S.2057)

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced the National Climate Bank Act in 2019, which would establish a National Climate Bank to publicly finance projects designed to advance renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With $35 billion in federal funding and mechanisms to attract private investments, bank investments would be made to local, regional, and state green banks or directly to eligible projects. The direct funding mechanism would be coupled with provisions for technical assistance and reduce traditional barriers to access for members of low-income and socially disadvantaged communities. Agricultural projects are listed in this bill as one of ten project types eligible for investment, which positions farmers and ranchers as key actors in our efforts to mobilize around the climate crisis.

Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020 (H.R.7393 / S.3894)

Sens. Mike Braun (R-IN) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-7) and Don Bacon (R-NE-2) introduced the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020to authorize the USDA to certify private carbon markets, technical assistance providers, and market verifiers. This bill aims to facilitate farmer and rancher participation in private carbon markets by creating a self-certifying process for technical assistance providers and carbon market verifiers to register and be listed on a USDA website. In its current form, the legislation does not include an accreditation process, opting instead for self-certification, and does not require USDA to establish a conflict of interest policy. Hence, verifiers could be in the employ of businesses and organizations running the carbon market. Nonetheless, the goal of the legislation is to bring transparency and build trust among farmers and ranchers seeking to participate in private carbon markets.

House of Representatives

Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA; H.R. 5861)

The Agriculture Resilience Act is the most comprehensive climate and agriculture legislation introduced in this Congress and has been covered extensively in this blog series. We have covered the goals section of the ARA for agriculture to reach net zero emissions by 2040, provisions on ecosystem services and carbon markets, a new program to support climate-friendly manure management, expansions and improvements to federal working lands conservation programs, provisions to promote climate and agriculture research at USDA, a new block grant program to support state and Tribal soil health programs, and ways federal programs can further incentivize adoption of advanced grazing management.

An overall summary of the bill is available here.

Cultivating Organic Matter through the Promotion of Sustainable Techniques (COMPOST) Act (H.R. 6023)

Reps. Julia Brownley (D-CA-26) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) introduced the Cultivating Organic Matter through the Promotion of Sustainable Techniques (COMPOST) Actin 2020 to define composting as a conservation practice in the Food Security Act of 1985. This amendment would enable farmers to receive conservation program payments for composting through USDA conservation programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program(EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program(CSP). Compost is among the most environmentally friendly means to dispose of food waste and other organic wastes, given its abilities to minimize pollution of water sources and greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously enhancing soil health and fertility that help build agricultural resilience to the impacts of climate change. The provisions within the COMPOST Act are included in the ARA.

Healthy Soil, Resilient Farmers Act (H.R. 8057)

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-7) introduced the Healthy Soil, Resilient Farmers Act earlier this year to create a “Soil Health Transition Loan Program” at USDA under the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Conservation Loan Program to support farmers and ranchers hoping to start or improve their conservation efforts. USDA would distribute these loans and help crop and livestock producers enhance their soil health and increase their soil carbon levels. Farmers and ranchers looking to adopt best soil health practices will have additional flexibility, including a three-year deferment on the loan’s interest and payments on loan principle as they adopt practices such as cover-cropping, resource-conserving crop rotations, advanced grazing management, and organic production. The bill strengthens successful, voluntary conservation practices that work in concert with the environment, enhance our soils’ carbon sequestration potential, and provide long-term economic benefits for farmers and ranchers.

School Food Recovery Act of 2020 (H.R. 5607)

Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1), Dan Newhouse (R-WA-4), and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1) introduced the School Food Recovery Act of 2020to establish a grant program for schools to implement food waste reduction programs. Schools selected through an application process will lead on food recovery and ensure that students have sufficient nutrition by establishing a food waste measurement, prevention, and reduction project. In addition, the competitive program will prioritize funding for schools collaborating with community partners and incorporate a number of experiential education activities for students to internalize the value of proper food use. Food waste emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and represents misuse of water, labor, and other resources that went into producing and transporting those products. This bill would enable schools to be part of the climate solution through food waste mitigation. Many of the provisions in this bill were incorporated into the ARA.

Food Recovery Act of 2020 (H.R. 5841)

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) introduced the Food Recovery Act of 2020to decrease the incidence of food waste through the implementation of numerous initiatives, several of which are comparable to provisions included in bills covered thus far. This bill establishes a common standard for date labeling, calls for studies to analyze barriers which prevent the donation of surplus food, creates a grant program to help schools reduce food waste, and increases support for food waste-to-energy and composting projects at the farm, municipal, county, and state levels.

This is not Rep. Pingree’s first time introducing a version of the Food Recovery Act as a longtime vocal champion of sustainable food and farming issues. Without these or comparable actions, an estimated 40 percent of food produced in the United States will continue to be wasted and methane—which is 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide —will continue to be emitted at unsustainable rates. Many of the provisions from this bill were also incorporated into the ARA.

Senate

America’s Clean Future Fund Act (S. 4484)

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the America’s Clean Future Fund Actwhich would establish a number of programs and incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, chief among them the establishment of an incremental carbon fee no later than 2023. The bill would also create an independent federal agency, the Climate Change Finance Corporation (C2FC), to invest in clean energy job creation and broader climate resilience. These aims would be achieved through grant programs for states and local governments to ease the transition for carbon-intensive industries and employees, as well as rebates and refunds to individuals and facilities who capture, store, and/or utilize carbon. To this end, the bill includes an agricultural payments section that would establish a new program to pay farmers and ranchers for implementing practices that sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This bill includes both the revenue-generating mechanism and a plan for how to utilize the revenue from the carbon fee to incentivize transition to sustainable and climate-friendly industries and practices.

21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps Act (S.4434)

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps Act to revive the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to the tune of $9 billion for fiscal year 2020 to remain available until 2022. The original CCC was established in the midst of the Great Depression by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to employ hundreds of thousands of young, out-of-work Americans, who engaged in job training and conservation projects across the country. In terms of agriculture, this bill’s reimagining of the popular national service program includes a provision for new, supplemental funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to support eligible climate stewardship practices, including cover crops, conservation crop rotation, rotational grazing, and silvopasture. Existing CSP programs and funding would not be changed by this legislation. The bill would create a set aside to make payments to be used exclusively to enroll in CSP contracts comprised predominantly of the climate stewardship practices listed in the legislation, protecting existing CSP funding but adding funding and incentivizing farmers to implement climate stewardship practices.

This is not the only climate-focused CCC bill that has been introduced recently, but we highlight it in this blog post due to its emphasis on CSP. Other comparable efforts to revive the CCC include the 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act (H.R. 7264)introduced by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO-2), which calls for an additional $5.5 billion in funding to remain available until 2023 for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). This additional funding would be specifically for alternative funding arrangements. These two versions of CCC legislation place a greater emphasis on agricultural conservation practices than many others, hence their inclusion in this blog post. NSAC will continue to monitor CCC proposals as they are released, particularly those that include substantial agricultural sections.

Other Proposals

Green New Deal (H. Res 109/S. Res 59)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a resolution in 2019, the Green New Deal, as a broad framework for the United States to create a sustainable 21st century economy with millions of high-wage jobs in new green industries and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is an aspirational declaration to guide our country’s vision, though it is not a bill with concrete provisions. The resolution includes benchmark guiding principles to reimagine nearly every sector of the economy, including manufacturing, energy, waste management, transportation, infrastructure, and agriculture, with the intent to build out specifics policies and programs through legislation over time. Support for family farming, expanding land use practices that increase soil health and carbon storage, and establishing universal access to healthy food are explicitly included as priorities in the agriculture sector.

Rural Green Partnership Framework

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) introduced the Rural Green Partnership in 2019 to the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis as a broad framework of principles for rural communities to play a key role in combating climate change. The proposal outlines a variety of ideas for the agriculture sector to lead this charge. These include increased funding for existing or perhaps new conservation programs to incentivize the wider adoption of precision agriculture and conservation management farming practices to maximize soil carbon sequestration, reduce runoff, and optimize fertilizer inputs. There are similar calls for integrated crop and livestock operations to receive incentives to maximize the soil carbon sequestered in their cropland. The framework also calls for expanding the number and capacity of conservation technical experts capable of offering one-on-one advice to agricultural producers would make these programs more accessible. Finally, in addition to new investments in research and development, the framework calls for expanding grants and loans for farm and ranch operations which improve overall energy efficiency and generation.

What Comes Next?

While none of these bills will become law this year as there are very few days left in the 116thCongress, now is the time to further develop the narrative around the key components of these bills and how they can be incorporated into comprehensive federal legislation for consideration in the 117th Congress (2021-22). It is possible that the 117th Congress could take up long overdue, comprehensive federal legislation to address the global climate crisis. While transportation, energy, and economic development will likely continue to receive the most attention in climate legislative discussions, food and agriculture systems have a critical role to play in addressing the climate crisis, as NSAC has stated in our Climate and Agriculture position paper, our farmer climate sign-on letter, and in this blog series on the ARA.

OFRF and NSAC encourage legislators to ensure sustainable agriculture producers have a seat at the table as climate policy discussions continue, and we encourage Congress to use the ARA as a roadmap for comprehensive policy proposals to expand and improve existing USDA programs for agriculture to fulfill its climate mitigating potential and be part of the solution. Legislators must ensure farmers and ranchers have the tools, resources, and incentives they need to transition to climate-friendly production systems that improve soil health, enhance carbon sequestration, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, reduce runoff and soil erosion, and protect water and air quality.

Read our blog summarizing the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis report here, in addition to the agriculture chapter fact sheet and the full report. You can also read the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis report here and NSAC’s recommendations to the Special Committee here.

By |2020-10-08T15:39:45+00:00October 8th, 2020|News|

Navigate the Complex World of Soil Health

October 7, 2020 – Are you trying to navigate the complex world of soil health management?

OFRF has the resources you need!

Our free series of guidebooks and webinars on soil health provide up-to-date, science-based information to help guide you in your efforts to build and sustain the health of our most valuable resource, soil.

Topics include:

Building Organic Matter for Healthy Soils: An Overview 
Weed Management: An Ecological Approach 
Practical Conservation Tillage 
Cover Crops: Selection and Management 
Plant Genetics: Plant Breeding and Variety Selection 
Water Management and Water Quality 
Nutrient Management for Crops, Soil, and the Environment 
Organic Practices for Climate Mitigation, Adaptation, and Carbon Sequestration 
Understanding and Optimizing the Community of Soil Life 

Thousands of farmers have already benefited from these webinars and here’s what they have to say!

“New to farming, I have struggled to grasp some of the concepts of building and maintaining good soil. The ‘light’ went on while watching this webinar.”

“Keep doing webinars, they are very helpful, organized, and well delivered. I have gotten a lot out of this particular series.”

View the guidebooks, webinars, and other educational resources here.

About the author and presenter:
Mark Schonbeck has worked for over three decades as a researcher, consultant, and educator in sustainable and organic agriculture. He has participated in on-farm research into mulching, cover crops, minimum tillage, and nutrient management for organic vegetables. For many years, he has written for the Virginia Association for Biological Farming newsletter and served as their policy liaison to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

    

For 30 years, OFRF has played a critical role in providing organic and transitioning farmers and ranchers with the resources they need to be successful. OFRF puts farmers first. We do not charge a membership fee and ALL of our resources are available for free.

View and share our climate toolkit.

By |2020-10-07T21:27:19+00:00October 7th, 2020|News|

New Grants Examine Organic Weed and Pest Management Strategies

October 1, 2020 – As part of its mission to provide organic farmers with sound, science-based information on weed and pest management strategies, OFRF has awarded grants to farmer/researcher collaborations at the Georgia Organic Peanut Association and the University of Idaho.

The first grant was awarded to Donn Cooper, an agricultural outreach and education specialist at Cooper Agricultural Services working in collaboration with the Georgia Organic Peanut Association. Cooper and his team will examine the effectiveness of an integrated weed control system in organic peanut production utilizing regular mechanical cultivation and Eugenol, a broad-spectrum herbicide derived from cloves and approved for certified organic production in the commercial formulation known as Weed Slayer. The project will be conducted with four certified organic farmers in Southwest Georgia.

While Georgia is the largest peanut-growing state, producing approximately three billion pounds annually, certified organic production has been impeded by the lack of a comprehensive approach to controlling weeds as well as certified organic processing facilities. The goal of the project is to address the first challenge by creating a weed management system specific to certified organic peanut production that can be replicated by farmers—fostering the expansion of certified organic peanut acres in the Southeast, while developing a value-added revenue stream for new, beginning, and socially disadvantaged producers operating small farms.

The second grant was awarded to Professor Arash Rashed, leader of the Idaho IPM Laboratory at the University of Idaho, to evaluate the efficacy of two biological control agents of wireworms—entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi—in organic production. The research team aims to identify the most effective entomopathogenic treatment against wireworms and successfully establish the biocontrol agent in organic farm soil.

Managing wireworms is a challenge facing organic producers in the Pacific Northwest due to their long-life cycle, subterranean living habitat, and ability to use a wide range of host plants. Although there are a few insecticides available for conventional farming, there is no effective control measure against wireworms in organic production. Focusing on one of the most damaging species in the Pacific Northwest, the sugar beet wireworm, this project will evaluate and compare the efficacy of entomopathogenic nematode and fungi treatments against wireworms in organic vegetable production. Three certified organic farmers are participating in the project. Findings will be communicated through field days and workshops.

These grants are two of 13 OFRF is awarding this year to help address the top challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers. As a result of OFRF’s research, education, and outreach efforts, thousands of farmers have received pertinent research and training information. Results from all OFRF-funded projects are available to access for free at ofrf.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2020-10-07T21:28:27+00:00October 1st, 2020|News, Press Release|

Carolyn Dimitri Appointed to NOSB Board

September 30, 2020–OFRF is pleased to share the news that our board member, Dr. Carolyn Dimitri, an Associate Professor of Food Studies at New York University, has been appointed to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The NOSB is made up of 15 volunteer members representing the organic community. Carolyn and the four other new members will serve five-year terms beginning in January 2021. Read the USDA’s announcement to learn more.

As an OFRF board member since 2015, Dr. Dimitri has made significant contributions to the organization. She currently serves on the Research Grant Committee as well as the Policy and Programs Committee.

Prior to joining the NYU faculty, Dr. Dimitri worked as a research economist at the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture. Dr. Dimitri has published extensively on the distribution, processing, retailing, and consumption of organic food. She earned a PhD in Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a BA in Economics from SUNY Buffalo.

Congratulations to all the new members!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2020-10-06T17:05:26+00:00September 30th, 2020|News, Press Release|

New Grant to Evaluate Use of Approved Fertilizers in Organic Tomato Crops

September 10, 2020–Organic tomato growers use cover crops and compost to build fertility; however, these practices don’t always provide sufficient soil nutrient availability during the period of rapid plant growth, which can limit tomato nutrient uptake, yields, and fruit quality. While fertilizer products approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), which meet the National Organic Program compliance criteria, provide a viable option for improving nutrient uptake, organic tomato growers have expressed a need for research to evaluate the profitability and effects on soil health resulting from the use of these products.

To support decision-making, OFRF has awarded a grant to Kate Scow, Director of the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility at the University of California Davis to evaluate the costs and benefits of using organic-approved liquid injectable fertilizers to improve nutrient uptake and yields in tomato crops. The research team will use organically managed plots at the Russell Ranch facility to compare nitrogen (N) uptake, fruit yields, and the profitability of three representative types of organic liquid fertilizers (fish emulsion, compost tea, and microbial/amino acid injectables) via fertigation in organic tomatoes.

Scott Park, owner/operator of Park Farm, will advise on product comparisons and review economic analysis results to ensure wide applicability to tomato growers. Although Park has built his soil’s organic matter levels and microbial activity considerably by cover cropping with winter legumes and composting, he still experiences tomato N deficiencies and lower yields in his organic tomatoes compared to conventional. As a result, he is considering the use of new soluble organic fertilizer products.

Mr. Park has been farming organically for over 25 years. He collaborated on an OFRF-funded grant to Amelie Gaudin in 2016 focused on developing integrated management strategies to improve water and nutrient use efficiency of organic processing tomatoes in California. The results of this project provide a viable strategy to help organic tomato growers dynamically cope with irrigation water shortages without hampering the quality of their harvested product.

The grant awarded to Professor Scow is one of 13 OFRF is awarding this year to help address the top challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers. As a result of OFRF’s research, education, and outreach efforts, thousands of farmers have received pertinent research and training information. Results from all OFRF-funded projects are available to access for free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2020-10-07T21:26:19+00:00September 10th, 2020|News, Press Release|

Organic for Climate Research Priorities

September 1, 2020 – As legislators continue to consider comprehensive climate legislation, OFRF is working closely with Congress and partner organizations to ensure the voices of organic farmers are heard on Capitol Hill. Organic agriculture has great potential to sequester carbon, mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reduce the environmental impacts of fertilizers and pesticides, and build resilience to a changing climate in our farms, ranches, rural communities, and food systems. Significant investments should be made in organic agriculture to advance its climate change mitigation potential.

Historic wins for organic agricultural research in the 2018 Farm Bill provide $395 million for organic agriculture research and education over the next ten years and secure permanent funding for organic research at USDA. OFRF’s organic research priorities focus on ensuring this increased investment advances organic agriculture’s contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation and responds to the top challenges facing producers who want to farm more sustainably.

Below is a summary of our recommendations:

  1. Advance soil health and fertility management to sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and build resilience to climate change stresses – Soil health, soil biology and biodiversity, and fertility management remain top priority research topics for organic producers, especially as they experience the growing impacts of climate disruption. Further research is needed on organic soil management strategies that optimize agricultural resilience, carbon sequestration, and net GHG reduction.
  2. Increase research on systems-level approaches to weed, pest, and disease management to minimize pesticide use, conserve biodiversity, and enhance carbon sequestration – Organic farmers are prohibited from using synthetic inputs to manage weeds, pests, and disease, and therefore rely on some level of physical soil disturbance to control weeds. Crop diversification, cover cropping, weed-competitive cultivars, and sound nutrient management can limit weed pressures, reduce the need for tillage and cultivation, and thereby protect soil carbon and soil health. Organic farmers and all farmers will benefit from developing practical tools and integrated strategies to manage weeds with minimal tillage.
  3. Promote research on organic livestock and poultry, advanced grazing management, and crop-livestock integration to sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance climate resilience of livestock production systems – USDA-funded organic animal agriculture research continues to lag far behind consumer demand for organic meat, dairy, and eggs. Furthermore, recent research highlights the climate benefits provided by advanced rotational grazing and crop-livestock integration. More research is needed so organic ranchers are equipped with the tools and resources they need to manage livestock and poultry in climate-friendly ways.
  4. Promote breeding and development of new public crop cultivars for resilience to climate disruption and performance in climate-mitigating organic production systems – Privatization of the seed industry and replacement of public cultivars with patented seeds have substantially narrowed seed choices for farmers, and revoked their right to save and select seeds adapted to their local conditions. Furthermore, with ongoing climate disruption, farmers urgently need crop cultivars specifically developed for stress hardiness. Organic farmers need regionally adapted, climate resilient non-GMO seeds suited to their production systems and markets.

Read the complete research priorities here. Don’t forget to check out our climate toolkit for advocates, and policymakers and our policy recommendations for making regenerative organic farming systems part of the solution to the climate crisis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2020-09-01T21:21:42+00:00September 1st, 2020|News, Soils|

Beginning Farmer Training Program Now Available

Bee on flowerAugust 26, 2020 – OFRF’s free beginning farmer training program for organic specialty crop farmers in California is now available. This online training program is for beginning farmers, existing organic farmers, and farmers in transition to organic production. While it was developed for California specialty crop farmers, the content is based on foundational principles that are relevant to all organic farmers and our hope is that growers across the U.S. find it to be a useful resource. The self-guided nature of the training program allows you to move through the readings and resources, visual and written content, and demonstration videos at your own pace.

The online training program contains six learning modules: 1) soil health, 2) weed management, 3) irrigation and water management, 4) insect and mite pest management, 5) disease management, and 6) business management and marketing.

Please help us get the word out on this new resource. We are looking for feedback and ask that anyone who takes the program also completes the brief surveys at the end.

This open educational resource is a joint effort between OFRF, the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP), and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. The self-paced program combines descriptive essays, video lectures from university faculty, and virtual field trips to demonstrate organic principles and practices.

View/take the online training program here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2020-10-13T15:08:07+00:00August 26th, 2020|News|

Cover Crops for Weed Management

August 18, 2020 – Roller crimper termination of cover cropsBalancing soil health and weed management is a serious challenge for organic producers. Tillage is an effective method of controlling weeds, but is energy intensive and can degrade soil health. Cover cropping is an alternative practice that can suppress weeds and build soil health. However, when to terminate cover crops is not straightforward. Terminating cover crops using a roller crimper—a piece of equipment that gently pushes the cover crop residue over the soil surface—has been shown to effectively suppress weeds in row-crops such as soybean, but less is known about the efficacy of roller-crimped cover crops in vegetable production. In 2019, OFRF provided a grant to Professor Alex Woodley at North Carolina State University to begin addressing this question in sweet potatoes, an economically important crop in North Carolina.

The study used a roller-crimper modified for sweet potato beds to assess whether fall planted cover crops mitigated the need for economically and environmentally costly tillage practices in organic sweet potato systems. In response to farmer-identified challenges, the study also examined whether cover crops present a tradeoff between soil health and pest management by providing habitat for wireworms, a significant pest in the study region.

Overall, the study demonstrated that when cover crop biomass is low, weed suppression is limited in cover cropped sweet potato beds. Yields were also significantly reduced in cover cropped beds in comparison to tilled beds, as a result of strong competition from weeds for water and nutrients, which was controlled through repeated cultivation in the tilled beds. Palmer Amaranth was primary driver in yield loss, which showed a remarkable ability to reduce soil nitrogen by 60%. Issues with drought and deer pressure may have also contributed to reduced yields overall, as yields in the tilled beds were also lower than expected. Cover cropping did not appear to increase the presence of wireworms, suggesting there is not a tradeoff between soil health and pest management in this system.

The project identified significant obstacles associated with using cover crop litter for weed management in sweet potato systems, indicating further research is warranted to optimize weed control practices and yields. The preliminary findings of this OFRF-funded project were leveraged to secure a $1.9 million OREI grant that will continue to explore how to implement roller-crimped cover crops for weed suppression in organic sweet potatoes.

Read the final report here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2020-09-08T23:24:37+00:00August 18th, 2020|News, Soils|
Load More Posts