Organics in the News
Certified organic farming enjoys success –
and challenges – like never before thanks
to surging consumer demand, USDA-regulated standards,
and increasing attention to how farming impacts
our land, water, communities and human health.
We’ve asked Jim Riddle to bring his perspective
to our e-pages as a voice from the progressive
center of this dynamic food and farming sector.
“Organics in the News” will be an
occasional series where Riddle shares his insights
in the context of current events.
James A. (Jim) Riddle has been an organic farmer,
gardener, inspector, educator, policy analyst,
author, and consumer. He was founding chair of
the Independent Organic Inspectors Association,
(IOIA), and co-author of the IFOAM/IOIA International
Organic Inspection Manual.
Riddle has helped train hundreds of organic inspectors
throughout the world. Riddle serves as vice-chair
of the National Organic Standards Board, which
advises the USDA on organic agriculture policies
and regulations. In 2003, Jim was appointed Endowed
Chair of Agricultural Systems at the University
He serves as an organic policy specialist for
SEPT 29: USDA announces its complete list of funded projects.
Read the USDA press
September 28, 2004: Are you ever faced with
too many positive choices? That is exactly the predicament
I found myself in this summer.
From July 19-22, 2004, I had the privilege to participate
as a review panel member for the USDA Cooperative State Research,
Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) Integrated Organic
The panel was charged with reviewing and evaluating the 105
grant applications submitted to the Integrated Organic Program.
We reviewed proposals from universities with long-standing
organic programs, and from research institutions making their
first foray into organic agriculture.
There were many innovative projects addressing issues critical
to the growth of the organic sector. Unfortunately, there
was only enough money available to fund a fraction of the
The review process
Each panel member was responsible for reviewing 16 proposals
in detail prior to the meeting and submitting written comments
on each of the reviewed proposals.
All proposals were seriously and meticulously reviewed. Panel
members presented their evaluations, and then each proposal
was discussed by the full panel. Panel members recused themselves
from all discussions in which they had actual or perceived
conflicts of interest.
After discussions that were at times intense, but always
respectful, proposals were scored as “Outstanding,”
“High Priority,” “Medium Priority,”
“Low Priority,” “Some Merit,” or “Do
Not Fund.” All proposals scoring as “low priority”
and above were found to have at least some fundable objectives,
while those scored as “some merit” or “do
not fund” were not recommended for funding.
Sources of funds
The Integrated Organic Program had $4.7 million available
in 2004 from two different Congressional authorizations.
The Organic Transitions Program (ORG) was authorized by the
1998 Agricultural Research, Education and Economics Reform
Act. For 2004, $1.8 million was available under ORG. Funds
for ORG are appropriated annually, and eligibility is limited
to colleges and universities. This was the fourth year of
the ORG program. Program goals focus on organic production
The Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) was
authorized as part of the Farm Security and Rural Investment
Act of 2002 (aka the most recent Farm Bill). The Farm Bill
contained mandatory funding of OREI at $3 million per year
for five years, although only $2.9 million was made available
in 2004. OREI has broad eligibility, and the program goals
include economic and consumer issues as well as production
research. This was the first funding year for OREI.
Both the ORG and OREI programs were offered as an Integrated
Organic Program, meaning that applicants did not have to choose
between the programs, but could submit one application that
could fit the goals and objectives of either program.
It is important to note that the term “integrated”
was chosen by CSREES in order to give priority to multi-functional
projects: those that emphasize research and extension
and higher education, as well as being multi-disciplinary,
multi-state, and/or multi-institutional.
Projects that scored the highest were projects where:
- A stakeholder advisory group was consulted prior
to development of project objectives;
- Clear methodologies were included in the design of the
- A measurable, outcome-oriented plan was presented for
dissemination of information developed by the project during
the life of the project;
- Stakeholders were to be involved in project evaluation;
- Progress reports were anticipated to demonstrate the
As stated, a total of $4.7 million was available for awards,
and 105 proposals were submitted for a
total request of almost $52
Eighty-six proposals, or 82 percent of all applications, had
at least some fundable objectives. The 86 fundable proposals
represented a total request of just over $42 million.
There were sufficient
funds available for only 11 proposals, meaning that just
10 percent of all applications, and only 13 percent of all
fundable applications, were funded.
Applications were submitted in the categories of crops, livestock,
economics, standards, and other. The table below shows the
amount of money requested and funded in each category and
the number and percent of projects funded in each category.
Categories Funded in 2004
Organic crop research applications were submitted for agronomic
and horticultural projects. The table below shows the amount
of money requested and funded for agronomic and horticultural
projects, as well as the number and percent of projects funded
for each category.
Category Funded in 2004
Applications were submitted from all regions of the United
States. The table below shows the amount of money requested
and funded, and the number and percent of projects funded
for each region. It is interesting to note that the Northeast
and West regions had a relatively high percentage of projects
funded, while a low percentage of projects from the North
Central and South regions were funded.
Requests for and Disbursement of Funds in 2004
Grant applicants are currently being notified whether or
not their projects are to be funded, and Secretary Veneman
will soon make a formal announcement. In the meantime, plans
are in motion for the 2005 Integrated Organic Program. A new
Request for Applications (RFA) is being drafted, and the need
for organic research continues to expand.
The U.S. House of Representatives mark-up for the 2005 appropriation
has the ORG program to be funded at $1.8 million, and the
Senate mark-up is similar. Approximately $3 million will again
be available for the OREI program. (The OREI funds are mandatory
under the Farm Bill, and are not subject to annual appropriations.)
This means that unless additional funds are allocated for
ORG, the majority of fundable organic research projects will
again go unfunded in 2005.
If you feel that the Integrated Organic Program should be
funded at a higher level, please contact your members of Congress
and urge them to increase the appropriation for the Organic
Transitions Program (ORG), as authorized by the 1998 Agricultural
Research, Education and Economics Reform Act.
Jim Riddle serves as vice-chair of the National Organic
Standards Board, which advises the USDA on organic agriculture
policies and regulations. He has been an organic farmer, gardener,
inspector, educator, policy analyst, author, and consumer.