Organic Blogs

"Weeds Your Way" – Organic Farmers Share Secrets of Herbicide-Free Farming

June 24, 2015 - The battle between weeds and food crops is as old as agriculture, a conflict that organic farmers manage through knowledge, experience, and creativity.

Weeds Your Way,” a new study by researchers at Cornell University funded by OFRF, found that successful organic farmers deploy a range of weed-fighting techniques to keep their fields clean and productive; including crop rotations, intercropping, and plowing fields before weeds are able to set seed.

Farmers reported that, over time, consistent use of organic techniques led to fewer recurring weeds, healthier soil and more successful harvests – a contrast to the soil depletion and emergence of mutant superweeds resulting from chronic use of chemical herbicides.

Researchers Brian P. Baker and Charles L. Mohler surveyed and interviewed well-respected organic farmers operating a diverse range of farming systems throughout the upstate New York area. The farmers held an average 24 years of farming experience, and their farms ranged in size from 4 to 2,600 acres.

Organic Seed Production Offers Profit Potential

June 24, 2015 - Sourcing organic seeds has emerged as a vexing problem for organic producers, who often search in vain for certified seed in varieties suited to their needs. But the shortage of specialty seed can offer lucrative opportunities to regional organic seed growers, according to a study by researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) extension.

The UGA study, funded by Organic Farming Research Foundation, combined field trials and economic analysis of organic seed production for cover crops suitable for Georgia farms. Researchers found that profits from production of organic cereal rye and crimson clover seed ranged from $338 to $356 per acre in the second year of the study.

Returns in the study’s first year were much lower, reflecting trial-and-error missteps, including harvesting equipment that lost too much seed and planting on unfertilized land.

Ceres Trust Seeks Organic Research Proposals

June 24, 2015 - Ceres Trust is now accepting applications for the sixth year of its competitive Organic Research Initiative program, which provides research grants of up to $60,000 per year for up to three years to qualifying applicants in the 12-state North Central region. The grants are available to universities, tribal colleges and other non-profit applicants based in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio or Wisconsin. The application deadline is Sept. 25, 2015.

The Ceres Trust’s main focus is the support and promotion of organic and sustainable agriculture.

Research areas of interest include, but are not strictly limited to: ecosystem health, water conservation, building soil organic matter, cultivation of minor and regional crops, soil remediation, tillage and integrated livestock systems.

Updated Organic – What “Organic” Means in 2015

June 24, 2015 - A five-webinar series offered by the American Society of Agronomy examines key aspects of modern organic production, and explains what’s new in 2015. Webinars begin July 7, and continue monthly through Nov. 3d. Watch them live or save them for later.

Farmers Sought for Farm Service Agency County Committees

June 24, 2015 - Are you a beginning or small-scale farmer? Are you producing for organic or local markets? Do you work for an organization that represents any of these producer types?

“Rewilding” would allow GMOs in Organic

June 4, 2015 - A recent Danish study on the concept of “Rewilding” advocates the inclusion of genetically-modified plant varieties in organic agriculture. “Rewilding,” or “Back-to-Nature Breeding” sound much more organic-friendly than “Genetically Modified and Licensed” – but are they essentially the same thing?

The study, Feasibility of new breeding techniques for organic farming,” builds an argument for allowing lab-based genetic modification techniques to be used to develop seeds for the organic market. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are currently banned from organic production by both U.S. and E. U. regulations.

But the Danish scientists, in collaboration with lawyers and economists, have identified a possible ambiguity in the U.S. National Organic Program standards. European organic standards forbid the process of lab-based genetic engineering, while U.S. and Canadian regulations focus on the result. The Danes’ solution? Use lab technology, but call the result something other than a GMO.

Applicants Sought for National Organic Standards Board

May 18, 2015 - The USDA is seeking five new members for the 15-member National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), and has extended the deadline for nominations to June 17, 2015 – providing an additional month to apply.

The NOSB is seeking to fill seats reserved for two organic farmers/producers, two representatives of public-interest or consumer-interest groups, and one USDA-accredited organic certification expert. The term of service for the open positions runs from Jan. 2016 through Jan. 2021.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is a Federal Advisory Committee tasked with reviewing materials allowed in organic farming systems, and advising the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture on the implementation of the Organic Foods Production Act. OFRF Executive Director Brise Tencer encouraged organic farmers to consider applying.

Organic Certification Cost Sharing Funds Available for 2015

May 15, 2015 - Two cost-sharing programs aimed at easing the cost of organic certification have announced $11.9 million in funding for 2015, allowing organic farmers throughout the U.S. to recoup as much as 75 percent of certification expenses paid between Oct. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30, 2015, not to exceed $750 per certification.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) makes the cost-share assistance available through state departments of agriculture, lowering economic hurdles for organic producers and handlers across the country.

Organic Systems Provide More Value Than Conventional, Research Finds

May 14, 2015 - A newly-published study comparing organically-managed and conventional farmland in New Zealand found that organic fields consistently provide more value per acre in the production of beans, peas, barley and wheat.

The study, authored by Harpinder Sandhu, Ph.D., and a team of scientists from Australia, New Zealand, England, Denmark and the U.S., calculated and compared the value of both “non-traded ecosystem services,” and the market value, of crops produced on matched pairs of ten organic and ten conventional farm fields. The scientists found that organic provided more value using either approach.

OTA Launches Drive for Organic Check-Off

May 15, 2015 - In a long-anticipated move, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) this week formally petitioned the USDA to begin the process of establishing a research and promotion check-off program for the organic industry. The proposed check-off, dubbed the Generic Research and Promotion Order for Organic (GRO Organic), is expected to initially raise $30 million per year to promote the organic industry.

GRO Organic would be the first U.S. agricultural check-off program to promote a production method and not a specific crop such as dairy (“Got Milk?”) or pork (“the other white meat”), and supporters say it could be a game-changer for the entire organic industry. 

“An organic check-off program would give organic stakeholders the opportunity to collectively invest in research, build domestic supply and communicate the value of the organic brand to advance the entire industry to a new level," said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of OTA. 

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