Dec 10, 2015
Funding available for organic agriculture research, Extension programs
Gary Pullano

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Dec. 10 the availability of $17.6 million in funding to support research and outreach activities that will help growers, producers, and processors find innovative ways to improve organic agriculture. The grants are being funded through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), a program that is administered by USDA’s National Institutes of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Over the past six years, USDA has strengthened programs that support organic producers as they grow, thrive and respond to increasing consumer demand for organic products,” said Secretary Vilsack. “The projects funded through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative will help identify innovative solutions to critical challenges facing organic agriculture, ultimately strengthening local markets, improving rural economies and expanding access to healthy food for Americans.”

The purpose of the OREI program is to fund high-priority research, education, and extension projects that enhance the ability of producers and processors who have already adopted organic standards to grow and market high quality organic products. Priority concerns include biological, physical, and social sciences, including economics. Past projects include a project at Washington State University to document the ecological role of wild birds on vegetable farmers, providing owners with practical, science-based recommendations for wild-bird management, and a project a joint project between Pennsylvania State University, Delaware State University, and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore to predict benefits and costs of cover crop mixtures in the context of regional climate, soil and management variability; empower organic farmers to use mixtures to meet their farm-specific goals; and to integrate this research into undergraduate organic education to further prepare the next generation of growers and researchers.

Funded projects will aid farmers and ranchers with whole farm planning by delivering practical research-based information and will improve the ability for growers to develop the Organic System Plan required for certification.

OREI has eight legislatively-defined goals:

  • Facilitating the development and improvement of organic agriculture production, breeding, and processing methods
  • Evaluating the potential economic benefits of organic agricultural production and methods to producers, processors and rural communities
  • Exploring international trade opportunities for organically grown and processed agricultural commodities
  • Determining desirable traits for organic commodities
  • Identifying marketing and policy constraints on the expansion of organic agriculture.
  • Conducting advanced on-farm research and development that emphasizes observation of, experimentation with, and innovation for working organic farms, including research relating to production, marketing, food safety, socioeconomic conditions, and farm business management
  • Examining optimal conservation and environmental outcomes relating to organically produced agricultural products
  • Developing new and improved seed varieties that are particularly suited for organic agriculture

Applications are due March 10, 2016. Please see the request for applications for specific program requirements.

The announcement was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science, visit or follow us on Twitter @usda_NIFA, #NIFAimpacts.

Be sure to check out our other specialty agriculture brands