US Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced more than $19 million in grants have been awarded to universities across the country to solve critical organic agriculture issues through the integration of research, education and extension projects.
“Organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture and USDA and Congress, through the 2008 Farm Bill, are committed to helping this industry succeed by addressing critical organic agriculture issues through the integration of research, education and extension projects,” Merrigan said. “These grants are an important part of USDA’s new ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative, which will help develop local and regional food systems and spur economic opportunity by assisting organic producers with new production and marketing practices to meet rising consumer demand.”
U.S. producers are turning to certified organic farming systems as a potential way to lower input costs, decrease reliance on nonrenewable resources, capture high-value markets and premium prices and boost farm income. Research at USDA increasingly focuses on the science that supports development of sustainable practices in agriculture and forestry, including organic farming, to both reduce negative impacts on the environment and keep U.S. farmers competitive.
Since the late 1990’s, U.S. organic production has more than doubled, but the consumer market has grown even faster. Organic food sales have more than quintupled, increasing from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $24.6 billion in 2008. More than two-thirds of U.S. consumers buy organic products at least occasionally, and 28 percent buy organic products weekly.
Fiscal Year 2009 Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative grants were awarded in the amount of $1,174,942 to: NC State University. Fiscal Year 2009 Integrated Organic and Water Quality grants were awarded in the amount of $658,769 to NC State University.
The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), funds projects that will enhance the ability of producers and processors who already have adopted organic standards to grow and market high-quality organic agricultural products. Meanwhile, the Integrated Organic and Water Quality Program funds projects that demonstrate benefits to soil and water availability posed by implementing certified organic practices. Projects combine physical measurements of soil and surface and/or groundwater conditions at the field or farm scale with modeling information generated at the same spatial and temporal scale.