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Growing organic market prompts new USDA research grants

By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 03-Nov-2011

Related topics: R&D, Organics

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded 23 new grants to organic agriculture research projects as part of its National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), in response to increased adoption of organic practices.

The USDA said the $19m-worth of grants were in line with significant growth in organic production and consumption in the United States. According to a new study from the Organic Trade Association (OTA), more than three-quarters of Americans (78%) choose organic foods at least occasionally, and the US organic industry grew at a rate of nearly 8% in 2010.

Agriculture deputy secretary Kathleen Merrigan said: “As more and more farmers adopt organic agriculture practices, they need the best science available to operate profitable and successful organic farms...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 a project in New Hampshire to increase year-round organic dairy capacity and produce enriched milk; a project in Missouri to increase grain productivity and reduce negative environmental impacts; a project in Ohio examining the feasibility of incorporating pasture-raised poultry and naked oats into an organic rotation plan; and a project in Montana to improve a crop production system that includes sheep grazing.

The full list of grant recipients can be found here .

OTA’s executive director and CEO Christine Bushway said: “In a time when the severity of the economy means making tough choices, it is extremely encouraging to see consumers vote with their values by including quality organic products in their shopping carts. It’s clear that with more than three-quarters of US families choosing organic, this has moved way beyond a niche market.”

The OTA polled nearly 1,300 US families about their attitudes and behaviors relating to organic food for its 2011 U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs Study.

It found that four in ten families said they were buying more organic products than they were a year ago, and 72% of parents were familiar with the USDA organic seal, up from 65% in 2009.