Organic Research Needs Identified; Can Be Met Through Combination of Federal and Industry Funding

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has developed an extensive report on challenges in organic farming, as well as recommendations to address those challenges, to ensure research funding is relevant and responsive to the needs of organic farmers.

The report identifies such challenges as increasing transition to organic and organic acreage in the United States, as well as needs for agronomic research on new practices and tools to address challenges in organic farming systems. In particular, OFRF identified soil health and weed management as top organic research priorities, followed by fertility and nutrient management, nutritional quality of organic food, and insect management. It also noted other concerns, including climate change, food safety, the impacts of GMOs, seed availability, pollinator health, and barriers to market entry. The report also noted regional priorities such as irrigation efficiency and coping with drought in the West.

The OFRF report calls for federal research funding at least proportionate to the organic sector’s market share, which is about 5-6% of U.S. food sales. However, faced with a Trump budget proposal that would cut USDA’s budget by 21%, it is pragmatic to consider other methods for meeting these needs.

Another mechanism for addressing the organic sector’s research needs is an organic research and promotion order, or checkoff. A checkoff program would allow the sector to pool its resources to address research, promotion, and technical assistance needs of the sector as a whole. Moreover, some federal research funds are only available if the sector puts forward matching funds – which would be possible with a checkoff. The organic checkoff proposal is in the comment process as we speak, with USDA accepting comments until April 19. Click here to submit your comment, or here to reach out to Karlin Consulting for assistance in crafting a comment.

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