Organic research funding on par with 2004

Posted January 14, 2005, Organic Farming Research Foundation: The 2005 Appropriations Omnibus bill, signed by President Bush on Dec. 8, provides key U.S. organic agriculture programs with funding levels equal to amounts appropriated in 2004. Organic advocates are calling these funding measures a small victory during a difficult fiscal year, in which many substantial cuts have been made to federal programs.

"Level funding for these programs this year is evidence that Congress is increasingly aware of the value of organic farming to both farmers and consumers," said Brise Tencer of the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF).

Congress allocates money annually to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal programs, but only in recent years has funding been directed specifically to organic farming research programs. OFRF and allies on Capitol Hill lobbied hard over the past 10 months to secure renewal of these funds. The Organic Caucus, a bipartisan group of 35 members of the U.S. House of Representatives that formed in 2001, worked particularly closely with OFRF to protect this funding.

"Organic farming offers many opportunities for current and future farmers as more Americans want organically produced products," said Organic Caucus member Congressman Virgil Goode, R-Va., who serves on the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee.

Organic provisions in the $388.4 billion Fiscal 2005 omnibus bill included $2 million for Organic Standards (the National Organic Program at the USDA), $1.89 million for the Organic Transitions research grant program, and $500,000 for collecting data on the scale and growth of organic agriculture in the United States.

"Organic farming is becoming more widespread every year, and it's critical that we support that growth by funding organic programs," said Congressman Sam Farr, D-Calif., a strong Congressional advocate for organics standards.

Thanks to the help of Representative Farr and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, OFRF was able to secure an additional $125,000 for expanded research at the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) station in Salinas, Calif., the only ARS research station with a dedicated organic research scientist.

"The increased funding to the Organic Minor Crops project at Salinas places dollars where they can be most effective," said Jim McCreight, Research Director at ARS-Salinas. Dr. Eric Brennan's organic research (the focus of the additional funding) emphasizes cover cropping systems and crop rotations for organic strawberry and vegetable producers in California's central coast.

While some additional funding requests made by OFRF for USDA organic programs were not appropriated, Congress included language that directs the USDA's Agriculture Research Service to better serve organic producers and consumers: "The Committee encourages ARS, when appropriate, to direct research resources in a manner that reflects the growing interest in organic production and the need to provide enhanced research for this growing organic sector."

To view a full list of organic program appropriations for the 2005 fiscal year, visit http://www.OFRF.org/policy.


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