NIFA awards $20.15m in organic grants

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

NIFA awards $20.15m in organic grants
Organic feed crop growth and development, along with organic feed trials are among the areas being funded in a set of 24 grant projects awarded by NIFA.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced​ Wednesday that the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded $20.15m in grant funding for research into organic production methods to improve the generation of organic food and feed.

The grants were awarded through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI​) and the Organic Transitions Program (ORG​), the agency said.

Funding for feed, production

Among the projects funded through the grant program were ones focused on developing feed ingredients for swine, improving strains of feed corn for use in organic feed and establishing lines of organic naked barley for use in feed.

The work with swine production focuses on the slow growth in organically raised pigs, which is attributed to high feed costs, the department said. The project would examine the use of a camelina presscake by-product as a feed for pigs followed by increasing the production of organic camelina as a winter crop in a double-crop system.

Another, and more involved, project aims to improve understanding of organic production techniques for producers growing organic wheat in conjunction with the production of organic beef cows, the department said. The project seeks expand the production of both organic wheat and beef while improving environmental stewardship.

Supporting organic production 

The ORG grants are aimed at supporting research, extension efforts and education intended to help producers who are moving to an organic production method or are already raising animals or crops using one, said NIFA.

The OREI program is focused on funding for research, education or extension projects geared towards improving yields, profitability or quality for producers that have already transitioned to organic production methods.

The grants supported through the program are expected to address “critical organic agriculture issues, priorities or problems,” ​said the agency.

Growth in US organics

The organic market in the US has been seeing continued growth, with more farms, additional acres and higher sales in recent years, according to USDA information.

The organic market offers producers a premium for their products, John Mesko, executive director with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), told us in a previous interview. He said that may be one reason more producers are interested in moving in that direction and seeking supports to do so.

“There is enough market demand that a supply chain company can afford to develop a parallel type of production,”​ he told us. 

The expectation is that the growth will continue starting with more organic infrastructure work in areas where organic grains are being produced and in the number of acres certified.

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