U.S.D.A. unveils grants for organic ag products

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture, through its National Institute of Food and Agriculture division, has announced 23 new grants to research and extension programs working to help organic producers and processors grow and market high quality organic agricultural products. The grants, totaling $19 million in all, are funded through two programs: the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and the Organic Transitions Program (ORG).

“As more and more farmers adopt organic agriculture practices, they need the best science available to operate profitable and successful organic farms,” said Kathleen Merrigan, Agriculture Deputy Secretary. “America’s brand of organic agricultural goods is world-renowned for its high-quality and abundance of selection. These research and extension projects will give producers the tools and resources to produce quality organic food and boost farm income, boosting the ‘Grown in America’ brand.”

The grants include more than $15 million in 2011 grants through the OREI, while $4 million is earmarked for the ORG.

Fiscal year 2011 projects were awarded in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia. Highlights include:

• A $380,923 project at the University of Minnesota to improve organic soybean and dry bean production by developing new organic varieties with enhanced competitiveness in weed control and soil nitrogen fertility.

• A $2,356,999 research project at Cornell University geared toward increasing production, profitability and sustainability of organic wheat and specialty crops by identifying factors that reduce yields, efficiency, productivity and the economic and socioeconomic contributions of organic farming to producers, processors and local communities.

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