Jul 6, 2022
OFRF urges more research, resources for organic farming to House ag committee

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) Research & Education Program Manager Thelma Vélez, Ph.D., recently testified before the full House Agriculture Committee hearing on “The Role of Climate Research in Supporting Agricultural Resiliency.”

Thelma Vélez, OFRF Research & Education Program Manager

As one of five panelists invited to share their expertise, Vélez summarized research findings that demonstrate the potential for organic systems to mitigate climate change and build resilience. The testimony reflected her 15-plus years of interdisciplinary research experience and thorough recommendations for more investment in organic research, education and extension for American farmers and ranchers.

The hearing took place on June 15 and is available for viewing on the House Ag Democrats’ YouTube channel. Vélez was the first to speak before the full House Agriculture Committee, roughly 20 minutes into the live-streamed hearing.

“While the organic method has been shown to have great potential to contribute to both climate mitigation and climate resilience, much more action-oriented research is needed to make widespread adoption possible,” testified Vélez.

Throughout the three-hour meeting, Vélez responded to questions from U.S. Representatives, including Alma Adams (D-North Carolina), Shontel Brown (D-Ohio), Bobby Rush (D-Illinois), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Glenn Thompson (R-Pennsylvania), Rick Allen (R-Georgia), Annie Kuster (D-New Hampshire), Angie Craig (D-Minnesota) and Jim Baird (R-Indiana).

”It was an honor to be invited to weigh in on a critical issue facing our nation and impacting the backbone of our food system,” said Vélez. “It is clear that many representatives are concerned with building resilience across America’s farms and the message that organic growers are leaders in this movement was well received.”

In her testimony, Vélez cited OFRF’s recently published 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA), a 230-page report compiling survey results and listening session data from over 1,000 certified organic producers. Over half of the farmers surveyed were concerned with adapting to climate change and nearly 90% stated they implemented regenerative soil health management practices, such as cover cropping, a climate-friendly practice.

RELATED: Weeds, soil health top organic growers’ list of concerns, NORA survey shows

When fielded a question from Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Florida), Vélez drew from experience with South Florida farmers who focused on carbon sequestration and soil fertility. In conversation with Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands), Vélez advocated for increased investment in climate research for U.S. Territories. Having researched and worked with farmers building resilience to a changing climate in the Caribbean, Vélez recommended a focus on farmer-led work and “researchers on the ground with farmers.”

On June 24, OFRF submitted supplemental testimony to the House Committee on Agriculture. The organization recommends expanded support of two key USDA research programs in the next Farm Bill — the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE). Citing its 2022 NORA report, OFRF also advocates for investments in technical assistance, university extension and farmer training.

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