Senators Introduce Bill to Boost Organic Farming Research and Support

US Senate© tupungato / Getty Images / Canva

Senators John Fetterman, Bob Casey, Peter Welch, Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Ron Wyden, and Kirsten Gillibrand have introduced the Organic Science and Research Investment Act. This bill aims to provide support to the organic farming industry through increased funding for research agencies and prioritizing organics research at the USDA. The senators emphasize the importance of supporting the organic industry and farmers. The investment in the organic sector is expected to create jobs and market opportunities for family farmers.

Specifically, the Organic Science and Research Investment Act will require USDA’s research agencies to better coordinate on organic research and extension, ensuring that the USDA considers organic research priorities in its budget justification to Congress and studies the feasibility of certifying more research land as organic. The bill will also increase funding for the USDA’s Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which supplies grants to universities and other research institutions for organics research and has providednearly $5 million for organics research at Penn State University alone over the past two years. And finally, the bill will build on the Biden administration’s organic research work by creating a statutory grant program to support producers’ as they transition to organic production.

Pennsylvania’s organic farms leave a significant economic footprint in the commonwealth. The commonwealth ranks fourth in the nation by number of certified organic farms with over 1,125. In 2021 alone, Pennsylvania farms produced and sold $1.09 billion in organic commodities. Sen. Fetterman’s legislation would expand investments in this booming and growing industry to support efforts to increase production in Pennsylvania and across the country. The bill is endorsed by over 60 organizations including two from Pennsylvania: PCO Certified Organic and PASA Sustainable Agriculture.

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“I’m proud to introduce this bill to expand resources for Pennsylvania’s critical organics industry. Our farmers are some of the best in the world, and we have to support them in every way possible,” said Sen. Fetterman. “We’re one of the top organic-producing states, and we need to keep it that way. Earlier this year, our state government invested $1.8 million to help conventional farms transition to organic farming, and I’m going to fight like hell to make sure the federal government’s part in supporting organic research and our small farmers gets there too.”

“Because of our farmers, Pennsylvania is one of the Nation’s leaders in organics, one of the fastest growing sectors of American agriculture,” said Sen. Casey. “A meaningful federal investment in this vital industry would create jobs in rural areas and market opportunities for our family farmers. I look forward to leading the Organic Science and Research Investment Act with Senator Fetterman to support Pennsylvania farmers and ensure the strength of American agriculture.”

“Vermont’s organic farmers produce world-class fruits, vegetables, and agricultural products. It’s important that we support research into this emerging industry, and the tools needed to transition to organics,” said Sen. Welch. “I’m thrilled to team up with my friend and colleague Senator Fetterman in introducing this bill to support the organics industry.”

“We must do more to support our country’s organic farmers,” said Sen. Booker. “By prioritizing organic research and helping support farms’ transition to organic production, we can bolster the sector and ensure the availability of high-quality organic food for all families.”

“Every dollar invested in agriculture research has a $20 return,” said Sen. Brown. “That’s why the Organic Science and Research Investment Act is so important. It will increase investments in organic agriculture research so that our organic farmers can be more productive, profitable and resilient, and so more Ohio families can put organic food on their table.”

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“Oregon farmers grow some of the most delicious blueberries, grapes and potatoes in the country,” said Sen. Wyden. “Supporting research into organic crops will support grown-in-the-USA fruit and vegetables and help consumers have the information they need when they’re at the grocery store. This bill is a win for farmers and a win for anyone who wants more delicious organic food.”

“As a certified Organic farmer who leads a network of over 7,500 ecologically-minded members, I’m very pleased to see the commitment to organic production demonstrated by the Organic Science and Research Investment Act,” said Hannah Smith-Brubaker, Executive Director of Pasa Sustainable Agriculture. “The bill will focus on organic research and extension coordination, prioritize funding for this research, and inform future priorities by exploring and distilling farmer decision-making as it pertains to Organic transition. Farming practices that care for the whole farm ecosystem are vital to better prepare us for a future impacted by climate change. More research into the efficacy and value of these practices is an essential piece of widespread adoption.”

“Organic Valley applauds congressional leaders who recognize the importance of public investments in organic research,” said Adam Warthesen, Senior Director of Government & Industry Affairs at Organic Valley. “Research enabled by this legislation represents the building of collective knowledge to help organic farmers gain on-farm efficiencies.  It allows businesses like ours to bring to bear a confidence and commitment in partnership with academic institutions and federal agencies to continuously improve the organic farming systems. This is necessary as organic is part of the larger agricultural landscape and pressures we all are facing to balance natural resource protection and grow good food for consumers in the U.S. and globally.”

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“We are excited to be able to work with Organic Champions in Congress to help ensure there are resources available to support the success of organic farmers and ranchers across the nation,” said Brise Tencer, Organic Farming and Research Foundation Executive Director. “Over the last several years OFRF has collected robust information from farmers about their research and education needs and these bills would provide much needed investment in solutions to these problems. These bills are also an important signal to early career researchers that organic agriculture research is an important, respected, and securely-funded area to engage in.”

The Organic Science and Research Investment Act would:

  • Require USDA’s research agencies to better coordinate on organic research and extension.
  • Ensure USDA considers organic research priorities in its budget justification to Congress.
  • Require USDA to study the feasibility of certifying more research land as organic.
  • Increase mandatory funding for the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which supplies grants to universities and other organizations for organics research.
  • Build on the administration’s organic research work by creating a statutory grant program studying producers’ decisions to transition to organic production.

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