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USDA makes funding available for research and extension programs

Over $66 million being made available

By Diego Flammini,

Two programs run by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) are making upwards of $66.5 million available for research and extension initiatives to tackle America’s need for specialty crops and help solve organic agriculture production problems.

The grants will be given by the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative.

"Investments in projects to help organic producers and specialty crop growers are an important way USDA helps American farmers establish new business opportunities throughout the country," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a release. "The projects funded by these programs will build on USDA support for local and regional markets. And strengthening local markets grows the rural economy while improving access to healthy food for millions of children and supplying farmers markets, restaurants and other businesses with fresh, high-quality fruits and vegetables."

The Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) determines fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and others are considered specialty crops. The funded projects will look at the entire spectrum of cover crops and production including research plant genetics, improving characteristics, identifying and addressing pests and diseases.

Pre-applications for the SCRI funding are due March 30, 2015; full applications are due July 2, 2015.

The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) will fund projects looking to give producers the tools and ability to produce high-quality organic products. They will also improve the ability for farmers to develop the Organic System Plan – a way for producers to be certified as organic.

Priority will be given to projects concerned with biological, physical and social sciences and including economics.

OREI is looking to fulfill eight goals:

  1. Examine optimal outcomes for conservation and the environment.
  2.  Conduct advanced research on farms to observe, experiment and innovate working organic farms in the areas of production, marketing, food safety and farm business management.
  3. Identify any market and policy restrictions that will impede on organic agriculture’s expansion.
  4. Determine desirable traits for organic commodities.
  5. Explore international trade opportunities.
  6. Evaluate any economic benefits organic agriculture will have for producers, processors and rural communities.
  7. Facilitate the development and improvement of the production practices of organic agriculture, breeding and processing.
  8. Develop new seed varieties that are suited for organic agriculture.

Interested applicants must submit a notification of intent by April 1, 2015. Full applications are due April 30, 2015.

Join the discussion and tell us if you’re considering applying for these grants and what steps you would take to further the advancement of organic agriculture.

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