USA: Investment in research, education and policy to support organic farmers needed

Organic farming is at an interesting crossroads, with consumer demand for organic food far outpacing production. The opportunity for both new organic farmers and conventional farmers transitioning to organic has never been better, yet the most recent Organic Farming Survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows a decrease in organic acreage. To reverse this trend, investment in research, education and policy to support organic farmers is needed now more than ever.

Steve Pedersen, High Ground Organics and Tom Broz, Live Earth Farm, with Research Leader, Dr. Carol Shennan, UCSC Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems

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In 2015, the Organic Farming Research Foundation took on a major initiative to ask organic farmers about the challenges they currently face. After conducting listening sessions around the country and completing a National Survey of Organic Farmers, they have feedback from well over 1,000 farmers about their challenges, information needs and research priorities.

Farmers have told the foundation that research on weed control, building soil health and fertility, and coping with water management during drought and flooding are major priorities right now.

OFRF is already planning several new efforts to meet their needs, including funding new research, developing more farmer-ready education tools to share practical information, and meeting with legislators and key officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure they are hearing the voices of the organic farmers.

OFRF’s $49,000 grant to research organic soil borne disease control for strawberries as an alternative to methyl bromide led to an additional $2.8M in government funding. Experiments using anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD) reduced soil borne diseases in a way that’s economical and better for the environment and people.

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