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Organic Agriculture


Food for Thought – Sink Your Teeth into Organic Foods this Holiday Season

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports organic agriculture through its Organic Transitions Program (ORG) and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). Since 2008, NIFA has invested more than $22 million into these programs:

  • ORG programs support research, extension, and higher education projects that facilitate the transition of traditional livestock and crop producers to organic production systems.  ORG also supports projects that focus on the ecosystem services of organic agriculture. 
  • OREI funds projects that improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers and enhance the ability of organic producers to grow and market high quality products.  OREI’s concerns include biological, physical, and social sciences, as well as economics, and emphasize whole-farm planning.


Both programs promote development of practices like cover cropping, crop diversification that enhance the sustainability of all production systems. The following list of projects is just the “appetizer” section in a full menu of NIFA-funded organic agriculture research programs.



  • Two major challenges that face organic poultry producers are finding consistent sources of organic feed and controlling enteric (intestinal) diseases.  A team of researchers at the Ohio State University is working to determine the feasibility of using cereal grain to replace corn and reduce the amount of soybean meal protein in the diets of poultry.  As a result, organic producers may see significant savings in the cost of feed.
  • A team of experts from government, academics, Cooperative Extension, and organic producers, to develop comprehensive strategies to eliminate enteric diseases such as Salmonella and Campylobacter infection and promote gut health in organically-raised poultry.  The researchers are testing the use of natural compounds found in cow milk, coconut oil, and cinnamon oil to control these pathogens.



  • Organic dairy producers face challenges, but also have many opportunities to develop and sell value-added products. University of Vermont researchers are developing training materials for organic dairy production systems to help farmers address many of their specific challenges.
  • A team from the University of New Hampshire is helping organic dairy producers in the Northeast develop cost-effective ways to enhance the quality and duration of the pasture-grazing season for their cows and optimize the marketability of their high quality, component-enriched organic milk.
  • A team from Utah State University is studying quality of organically produced milk and cheese made from cows that eat various organic feeds.  They are also conducting an economic analysis to determine potential costs and benefits of birdsfoot trefoil, a perennial legume commonly used as ground cover erosion control and as pasture grazing stock.  Reports of similar research in New Zealand indicate that organic dairy farmers who incorporate birdsfoot trefoil will see an increase in milk production.



NIFA provided funding for two organic apple grants totaling more than $520,000.  Click on the links to read the Current Research Information System (CRIS) reports the following projects:


Leafy Greens

NIFA has funded one organic leafy greens project, granting more than $1 million to the University of Arizona to improve the safety and post-harvest quality of field-grown organic leafy greens.


Cornell University has received a NIFA-funded grant of nearly $2 million to research critical pest management challenges in organic cucumbers.


USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Peoria, IL, received a grant of more than $2 million to research carrot improvement for organic agriculture.


Oregon State University received a NIFA grant of nearly $540,000 to create a robust national network of organic vegetable breeders.


Oregon State University received a NIFA grant of nearly $470,000 to study integrating weed management and fertility in organic highbush blueberry production systems to optimize plant growth, yield, and grower return.


Oregon State University is using a grant from NIFA to study organic blackberry production systems for improved yield, fruit quality, and food safety in fresh and processed markets.


NIFA has provided funding to the University of Idaho of more than $100,000 to study organic potato production.


A NIFA-funded grant to the University of Florida is helping researchers study improvement and implementation of organic pecan systems in the Southeastern United States.


University of Maine researchers are using a NIFA grant of more than $1.3 million to enhance farmers’ capacity to produce high quality organic bread wheat.




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