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NOC Applauds Senators Casey and Collins for introducing Organic Research Bill

Posted: February 8, 2018

For immediate release: February 8, 2018

Media Contact:

National Organic Coalition, Abby Youngblood, abby@nationalorganiccoalition.org, 646-525-7165

Senate Bill Increases Funding for Organic Research

Washington, D.C. – February 8, 2018— Today Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced a bill that will increase funding for organic research. The Organic Agricultural Research Act of 2018 will generate a significant bump up in funding for USDA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) from $20 million to $50 million annually by fiscal year 2023.

The National Organic Coalition (NOC) has been a longstanding champion for increases in funding for organic research to help address production constraints facing U.S. organic farmers. “We are greatly encouraged by the leadership that Senators Casey and Collins are providing by introducing this bill. The OREI program is aimed at helping farmers address the challenges they face each and every day on the farm,” says Abby Youngblood, Executive Director of the National Organic Coalition. “NOC has been fighting for these increases in organic research because we believe it will also help more farmers transition to organic production in response to increases in demand each year in the marketplace.”

The cutting-edge research conducted through the OREI program helps farmers become more productive, efficient, and profitable and leads to the development of new agricultural practices that can be used by conventional and organic farmers alike.

The Senate bill is a companion bill to the bi-partisan Organic Agriculture Research Act (HR 2436) introduced on May 16th by Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA). The bill now has 57 co-sponsors.

“Maine has over 550 certified organic operations and an influx of young farmers who are eager to farm organically,” says Ted Quaday, Executive Director at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. “We are thrilled that Representative Pingree and Senator Collins are championing this type of sustained investment in the future of Maine farmers. These bills will help secure continued growth of the organic sector in Maine by putting research dollars into soil health, fertility, and disease and pest challenges that are real barriers to transitioning to organic and increasing production.”

While consumer demand for organic products has skyrocketed, domestic production of organic products has not kept pace with demand. Organic sales reached $47 billion in 2016, but an increasing percentage of organic food is being imported to fill the gap, resulting in a missed opportunity to generate jobs, economic growth, and environmental benefits in communities across the United States. 

Unfortunately, over the past five years, while overall funding for agricultural research has grown significantly, funding for organic research has stagnated. This bill would go a long way to close that gap.

“With the hundreds of certified organic operations I visit each year throughout the state of Pennsylvania and beyond, I can see how innovative research through the OREI program will greatly benefit farmers who are struggling with intractable problems that make their operations less cost-effective,” says Christie Badger, an independent organic inspector and co-owner of Badger’s Millside Farm in central Pennsylvania. “Directing resources to combat these challenges is a smart investment that will result in more successful farms that drive economic growth and jobs in communities across the state. I’m appreciative of Senator Casey’s leadership to move this bill forward.”

According to the latest USDA certified organic survey, Pennsylvania has surpassed Washington state for total sales of organic products and is second only to California as the biggest organic center in the United States. There are 1,462 organic operations in the state.

In 2016, the Organic Farming Research Foundation published the National Organic Research Agenda and an analysis of USDA organic research investments. Together, these reports provide an in-depth understanding of the state of organic agriculture in the U.S., and the research needed to increase both the number of organic farms and acres. The Organic Agricultural Research Act of 2018 will ensure continued investment in this critical research. Achieving a level of funding of $50 million annually by 2023 builds toward “baseline status” for the initiative, which would make it a permanent part of the Farm Bill’s Research Title.

NOC looks forward to working with Members of Congress in the Farm Bill process to advance organic agriculture.

About the National Organic Coalition:
The National Organic Coalition (NOC) is a national alliance of organizations working to provide a "Washington voice" for farmers, ranchers, conservationists, consumers and industry members involved in organic agriculture. NOC seeks to advance organic food and agriculture and ensure a united voice for organic integrity, which means strong, enforceable, and continuously improved standards to maximize the multiple health, environmental, and economic benefits that only organic agriculture affords. The coalition works to assure that policies are fair, equitable, and encourage diversity of participation and access.

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