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Agriculture Deputy Secretary Merrigan Announces $19 Million in Organic Research, Education and Extension Grants

Emphasizes importance of 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' Initiative

Media Contact: Jennifer Martin, (202) 720-8188

PORTLAND, Maine, October 30, 2009 - Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced more than $19 million in grants have been awarded to universities across the country to solve critical organic agriculture issues through the integration of research, education and extension projects.

"Organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture and USDA and Congress, through the 2008 Farm Bill, are committed to helping this industry succeed by addressing critical organic agriculture issues through the integration of research, education and extension projects," Merrigan said. "These grants are an important part of USDA's new 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative, which will help develop local and regional food systems and spur economic opportunity by assisting organic producers with new production and marketing practices to meet rising consumer demand."

Merrigan announced the funding in Portland, Maine, and was joined by representatives from the University of Maine, the local grant recipient which is conducting research that will increase farmers' capacity to produce high quality organic bread wheat. The announcement was made at Borealis Breads bakery where proprietor, Jim Amaral, benefits from the USDA funded research by using the locally produced organic bread wheat that meets the higher quality standards necessary for bread production.
Supplying this expanding market for organic bread wheat represents a significant economic opportunity for this region's farmers.

Launched in September 2009, the 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative emphasizes the need for a fundamental and critical reconnection between producers and consumers. 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' includes such major agricultural topics as supporting local farmers and community food groups; strengthening rural communities; enhancing direct marketing and farmers' promotion programs; promoting healthy eating; protecting natural resources; and helping schools connect with locally grown foods.

U.S. producers are turning to certified organic farming systems as a potential way to lower input costs, decrease reliance on nonrenewable resources, capture high-value markets and premium prices and boost farm income. Research at USDA increasingly focuses on the science that supports development of sustainable practices in agriculture and forestry, including organic farming, to both reduce negative impacts on the environment and keep U.S. farmers competitive.

Since the late 1990's, U.S. organic production has more than doubled, but the consumer market has grown even faster. Organic food sales have more than quintupled, increasing from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $24.6 billion in 2008. More than two-thirds of U.S. consumers buy organic products at least occasionally, and 28 percent buy organic products weekly.

The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), funds projects that will enhance the ability of producers and processors who already have adopted organic standards to grow and market high-quality organic agricultural products. Meanwhile, the Integrated Organic and Water Quality Program funds projects that demonstrate benefits to soil and water availability posed by implementing certified organic practices. Projects combine physical measurements of soil and surface and/or groundwater conditions at the field or farm scale with modeling information generated at the same spatial and temporal scale.

More information about USDA's National Organic Program is available online at www.ams.usda.gov/nop. Additional information about USDA's 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative is available at www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer.

Fiscal Year 2009 Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative grants were awarded to:

  • University of California, Davis, Calif., $372,135
  • University of Guam, Mangilao, Guam, $41, 616
  • University of Hawaii, Manoa, Hawaii, $47,500
  • University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, $351,028
  • Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, $1,047,024
  • University of Maine, Orono, Maine, $1,320,378
  • Sustainable Agricultural Systems Lab, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville, Md., $759,480
  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn., $38, 466
  • Michigan State University, Lansing, Mich., $1,049,674
  • University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb., $69,806
  • University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb., $1,419,710
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $894,069
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $1,431,591
  • North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.  $1,174,942
  • The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $470,696
  • The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $1,089,190
  • Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore., $522,108
  • Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore., $ 317,182
  • The Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pa., $538,415
  • Utah State University, Logan, Utah,  $637,519
  • University of Vermont and State Agriculture College, Burlington, Vt., $946,675
  • Organic Seed Alliance, Port Townsend, Wash., $46,281
  • Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $46,794
  • Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $410,077
  • Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $1,040,210
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis., $541,172
  • University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming, $547,621

 

Fiscal Year 2009 Integrated Organic and Water Quality grants were awarded to:

  • Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, $599,027
  • North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C., $658,769
  • The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $659,527

 

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.

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