New Report Assesses Federally Funded Organic Research

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has completed its analysis of federally-funded organic research projects and released the findings in the report Taking Stock: Analyzing and Reporting Organic Research Investments 2002-2014.

OFRF analyzed 189 organic research projects that were funded by USDA’s Organic Research and Extension Initiative and Organic Transitions competitive grants over the course of 13 years, representing $142.2 million of research funds.

About 70 percent of the studies looked into organic crop production, another 20 percent examined crop-livestock systems, and 10 percent studied livestock and poultry. Sixty-five percent of projects looked at soil management issues, while 68 percent focused on managing crop pests.

OFRF found that while 60 percent of projects involved producers in identifying priorities and setting goals, only 7 percent of them utilized farm field days to communicate findings directly to growers. Still, projects generated valuable information and tools for organic farmers.

One of many bright spots identified in the report is organic plant breeding. For example, the Organic Seed Partnership at Cornell University worked with regional farmers to trial hundreds of vegetable varieties and breeding lines, ultimately releasing 26 new public cultivars with increased disease resistance or other traits useful to organic farmers.

OFRF offers a number of recommendations based on its analysis, first and foremost to strengthen organic grant programs through increased funding. OFRF also recommends that USDA:

  • Direct funding to underfunded and emerging priority areas
  • Fund smaller, more applied projects in addition to larger, multi-institutional projects
  • Improve project reporting and access to project outcomes.

Visit the OFRF website and read the full report.