Sep 28, 2021
Opportunities, challenges of farming organic rice studied for US
The University of Arkansas, in collaboration with The Organic Center and the University of California Cooperative Extension, has been awarded nearly $500,000 through USDA’s Organic Research and Extension Institute, or OREI, to help undertake a three-year project studying the challenges and opportunities for organic rice production and usage in the United States.
Currently, consumer demand for organic rice exceeds domestic supply, and leads to significant import competition. Meanwhile, research is needed to determine whether domestic organic rice production can be competitive and sustainable, and what attributes consumers consider desirable in the rice they eat.
The long-term goal is to facilitate the growth of organic rice production in the U.S. and foster the growth of the domestic market. Specifically, researchers will focus on identifying and assessing the economic impacts of different production practices used in domestic organic rice production. To expand domestic consumption of organic rice, researchers plan to study consumers’ preferences. In addition, researchers will develop a multi-state outreach program to disseminate the findings of the research.
“It will be important to assess producer and consumer attitudes about organic rice production and consumption, and then identify any barriers that need to be overcome to improve the market opportunities,” said Alvaro Durand-Morat of the University of Arkansas who is lead Project Investigator.
The research will include using discussions with farmer focus groups and surveys, as well as studies of consumer behavior and attitudes concerning desired attributes of rice they buy and consume. Findings and results will be disseminated through many channels, including interactive extension tools, presentations, and journal and newspaper publications, to reach targeted audiences.
During the first year, The Organic Center will issue press releases and grower group announcements to publicize the planned research. It will also provide a web portal to post description of the project, updates, and other information. Meanwhile, it will launch a social media campaign about the research via The Organic Center and Organic Trade Association Facebook and Twitter accounts. This campaign will continue throughout the full four years of the project to disseminate information gathered at farmer and industry group listening sessions, requests for stakeholder input, research findings, and stakeholder meeting conference sessions and workshops.
During the second and third years, The Organic Center will increase its outreach to allow wide dissemination of on-farm research findings and recommendations. Included will be webinars, and publications explaining research results.
“We are thrilled to be a part of this monumental research,” said Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs at The Organic Center. “This project will fill a critical need to help increase the domestic supply of organic rice.”
OREI helps support wide ranging research projects that specifically address the most critical issues impacting organic growers. The 2018 Farm Bill approved increasing funding for OREI to $50 million per year by 2023, thus establishing permanent funding for the program. For the current 2021 funding round, this amount increased from $20 million to $25 million. In 2022, the amount will increase to $30 million. In 2023, the program funding amount will be capped at annual distribution of $50 million.
This project is funded by USDA NIFA# 2021-51300-34910.
Above, a rice harvest at a Texas farm. Photo: USDA/Lance Cheung