Bipartisan bill would increase organic research funding

Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) this spring introduced the Organic Agriculture Research Act of 2017, which would invest in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) to meet the needs of the growing organic sector. Sales of organic products in the U.S. reached approximately $47 billion in 2016, and expectations are for continued growth as more consumers choose organic.

The Organic Trade Association provided input and worked closely with Reps. Pingree, Newhouse and Panetta on developing the legislation.

H.R. 2436, known as the Organic Agriculture Research Act of 2017, would increase annual funding for OREI from its current $20 million to $50 million a year from 2018 to 2023. Established in 2002, OREI is USDA’s flagship organic research program, supporting research projects that address the critical challenges faced by organic farmers in their fields every day. OREI has funded 163 projects worth almost $150 million since its inception.

 “Robust funding for agriculture research is critical for the advancement of organic, and we applaud Representatives Pingree, Newhouse and Panetta for their efforts to secure additional resources for USDA’s flagship research program for organic agriculture. The future of organic farmers’ success is tied to discovering new organic crop varieties, developing breakthroughs in pest and weed control, crop rotation, and the development of effective and compliant farm inputs. The Organic Agriculture Research Act of 2017 invests in the future of organic farming by ensuring the research keeps up with the burgeoning industry,” said Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO for the Organic Trade Association.

Added Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center, “The Organic Center is thrilled to see the serious investment in organic research and applauds Representatives Pingree, Newhouse and Panetta for their efforts. The Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) has spawned a new community of scientists and infrastructure dedicated to organic systems research since it was established in the 2002 Farm Bill. The Organic Agriculture Research Act of 2017 will secure long-term investment in the science of organic farming essential for the continued success of farmers.”

OREI funding has helped support projects on organic production including developing locally adapted organic quinoa varieties, improving organic rice production methods in the southern U.S., and developing and releasing new organic vegetable varieties. OREI funds are currently making possible a multidisciplinary project at the University of California, Davis on using manure effectively in organic farming in ways that foster healthy soil and minimize food safety risks. //