Pingree, Newhouse, Panetta introduce organic research bill | TheFencePost.com
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Pingree, Newhouse, Panetta introduce organic research bill

Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine; Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.; and Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., on Tuesday introduced the Organic Agriculture Research Act.

The legislation increases funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture's flagship organic research program, the Organic Research and Extension Initiative, from $20 million to $50 million annually. The program funds applied research projects across the country that help organic farmers improve their operations and meet the growing consumer demand for organic food, the three members noted in a joint news release.

"Over the last 10 years, sales of organic food in the U.S. have doubled, which has benefited rural economies and raised the income of many farmers. There's still a lot of room for growth — it's just a question of getting farmers what they need to keep up with consumer demand," Pingree said.

"Organic Research and Extension Initiative funding has been critical in solving problems and developing ways for farmers to increase productivity, prevent loss, and streamline their operations," she said. "But insufficient funding has led to many unmet research needs and missed opportunities. The Organic Agriculture Research Act would increase funding to reflect the industry's growth in the market and maintain its momentum."

"Our country's organic industry is a dynamic and growing market, but more must be done to ensure that producers are equipped with the most effective tools available. My district on the central coast of California is the fifth-largest organics-producing district in the country, home to over 400 organic producers. To remain competitive, these operations depend on innovations in research – particularly when it comes to improvements in soil health and pest management," Panetta said. "The Organic Agriculture Research Act will provide economic opportunity for our producers and increase accessibility to consumers through science-based advancements."

Leaders of the Organic Trade Association and the Organic Center and organic researchers praised the bill.

"Federal funding for enhancing the sustainability of organic farming systems is necessary because farmers and consumers are asking for this kind of research and extension. Experience gained from these research and extension efforts will contribute to improvements in the production practices of organic growers and in the ability of conventional and other growers to adopt more sustainable management approaches," said John Reganold of Washington State University, Pullman. "Organic agricultural research and extension will expand economic opportunities for farmers and reduce reliance on agrochemicals." Reganold was involved in a $1.6 million grant project awarded to WSU in 2012 to develop locally adapted quinoa varieties and organic management practices to increase production in the U.S.

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