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USDA Announces Availability of $4.7 Million in Funds for Organic Research, Education and Extension Projects

SANTA CRUZ, Calif., – In an historic development, the United States Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (USDA CSREES) has announced the availability of $4.7 million in fiscal year 2004 for the new Integrated Organic Program. The Request For Applications (RFA) for the Integrated Organic Program offers two program areas: the Organic Transitions Program, and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative. Together, the two programs will fund integrated research, education, and extension projects that address critical organic agriculture issues, priorities or problems. The deadline for applications for both program areas is June 10.

“The availability of this funding from the USDA CSREES is unprecedented. This represents a new threshold of commitment by USDA and Congress to organic agricultural solutions. As this program develops, it will make new scientific information available to farmers and ranchers wanting to improve their organic systems,” said Bob Scowcroft, Executive Director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF).

The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) was first authorized by Congress in 1997, and received mandatory funds in the 2002 Farm Bill. OFRF advocated for the creation of this program and played a key role in securing funding. This new program provides a total of $15 million through 2008 to fund competitive grants. OREI will fund projects designed to enhance the ability of producers and processors to grow and market certified organic food, feed, and fiber products. Priority areas include the biological, physical, and social sciences, including economics. Land-grant institutions, nonprofits, small businesses, state agricultural experiment stations and individuals are among those eligible to apply. $2.9 million is available for OREI grants in 2004.

The Organic Transitions Program (ORG) was created in 1998. Over the last several years, ORG has provided approximately $2 million per year for a competitive grants program to fund the development and implementation of research, extension and higher education programs to improve the competitiveness of organic producers. This program is geared primarily toward land-grant universities and other institutions of higher education. According to the RFA, “projects should plan to deliver applied production information to producers and students.” Research must be conducted on certified organic land or on land in transition to organic certification. $1.8 million is available in the current RFA for this program area.

While the RFA combines both program areas, applicants are expected to specify which objectives they intend to fulfill. One review panel is expected to review applications for both programs in July, with awards made no later than Sept. 30.

The full RFA and related materials are available online at http://www.csrees.usda.gov/fo/fundview.cfm?fonum=1141.

Questions should be directed to Dr. Thomas Bewick; National Program Leader; Plant and Animal Systems Unit; Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service; USDA; STOP 2220; 1400 Independence Ave., SW; Washington, DC 20250-2220; Telephone: (202) 401-3356; Fax: (202) 401- 4888; E-mail: tbewick@csrees.usda.gov.

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