cows in field

USDA Supports Research and Marketing of Organic Agriculture in 18 States

Added December 5, 2011. In late October, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced 23 new grants to research and extension programs working to help organic producers and processors grow and market high quality organic agricultural products. The grants, totaling $19 million in all, are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through two unique programs: the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and the Organic Transitions Program (ORG).

"As more and more farmers adopt organic agriculture practices, they need the best science available to operate profitable and successful organic farms," said Merrigan. "America's brand of organic agricultural goods is world-renowned for its high-quality and abundance of selection. These research and extension projects will give producers the tools and resources to produce quality organic food and boost farm income, boosting the 'Grown in America' brand."

The grants announced today include more than $15 million in 2011 grants through the OREI. Supporting the development of sustainable agricultural and forestry practices, including organic farming, to both reduce negative impacts on the environment and keep U.S. farmers competitive is a priority of USDA research. For more OREI information, visit:

In addition, the grants announced today include nearly $4 million through the ORG. In FY 2011, ORG focused on environmental services provided by organic farming systems that support soil conservation and contribute to climate change mitigation. Practices and systems to be addressed include those associated with organic crops, organic animal production (including dairy) and organic systems integrating plant and animal production. More information on the program can be found online at
Since the late 1990s, U.S. organic production has seen significant growth. U.S. producers are increasingly turning to certified organic farming systems as a potential way to decrease reliance on nonrenewable resources, capture high-value markets and premium prices, and boost farm income. Today more than two-thirds of U.S. consumers buy organic products at least occasionally, and 28 percent buy organic products weekly.

Highlight of some of the FY 2011 Organic Grants

OREI Awards

University of New Hampshire, Durham, N.H., $2,863,915 – This project will enhance the year-round capacity of Northeast organic dairy producers to produce high quality component-enriched organic milk.

Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $2,356,999 – Research conducted by this project will increase production, profitability and sustainability of organic wheat and specialty crops by identifying factors that reduce yields, efficiency, productivity and the economic and socioeconomic contributions of organic farming to producers, processors and local communities.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Inc., Rochester, N.Y., $49,663 - This project will bring researchers from across the Northeast together to share their relevant organic agricultural research with organic farmers from the region at the Northeast Organic Research Symposium.

Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore., $46,580 – This planning grant will help the project team develop a future project researching the impacts of functional agricultural biodiversity by identifying constraints to biodiversity enhancement on organic farms in the western United States.

Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Penn., $2,296,803 - The main goal of this project is to quantify the benefits and trade-offs of using diverse cover crop mixtures in organic feed rotations.

Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $28,891 – This grant will sponsor a conference to foster the development of economically viable and environmentally sustainable dryland organic farming systems in the Pacific Northwest.

ORG Awards

University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo., $742,217 – This project will improve organic cropping systems by increasing grain productivity, suppressing weeds and providing fertility while reducing negative impacts on the environment.

Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont., $742,907 – This project will develop a holistic sheep and organic crop production system that uses targeted sheep grazing to reduce tillage intensity, nitrogen leaching, greenhouse gas emissions and improve soil fertility and soilcarbon sequestration.

Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $745,493 – This project will research management practices that integrate cover crops, tillage practices, organic amendments and livestock to improve soil quality, utilize nitrogen more efficiently and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from soil and farm machinery.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272(voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).