Fiscal Year 2016 Congressional Funding Request




Written Statement on FY 2016 Requests

on behalf of the

Organic Farming Research Foundation

submitted to the

Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, & Related Agencies

Senate Committee on Appropriations

March 27, 2015


ContactJane E. Shey,, Organic Farming Research Foundation, 303 Potrero Street, Suite 29-203, Santa Cruz, CA 95060


I am submitting this testimony on behalf of the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), which works to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF cultivates organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production.


This testimony details our fiscal year 2016 funding requests for USDA programs of importance to the organic farming sector.


            USDA/ National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

            Organic Transitions Program

            Request:  $5 million


   ​The Organic Transition Program, is a critical research grant program that helps farmers address some of the challenges of organic production and marketing.  The demand for research on organic agriculture is outpacing the available funds in this program. According to NIFA, only 38% of the applicants to this program receive funding. USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has identified a number of organic research priorities that cannot be funded due to a lack of resources. An increase in the Organic Transition Program would allow the NOSB to address some of the research issues that limit the growth of the organic industry. And given the innovative nature of organic agriculture, many of these research projects benefit all farmers, not just those in the organic sector. 


​The Organic Transition Program was funded at $5 million in fiscal year 2010, and about $4 million for Fiscal Years 2011 through 2015.  We are seeking $5 million to restore the program to its FY 2010 level to in order to address the current low funding rate for this program. ​



USDA/Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS)

National Organic Program

Request: $9.2 million


Organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing sectors of agriculture, fueled by strong consumer demand organically produced goods continue to show double-digit growth, providing market incentives for U.S. farmers across a broad range of products. Organic products are now available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores and nearly 3 out of 4 conventional grocery stores with organic sales accounting for over 4 percent of total U.S. food sales.​


The USDA organic label is administered by the National Organic Program (NOP). NOP was funded at about $9.1 million for FY 2015.  We are requesting $9.2 million for NOP, consistent with the Administration’s FY 2016 budget request. This slight funding increase will allow NOP to meet the growing consumer demand for organically produced goods and to expand market access for organic farms and businesses.



Organic Data Initiative     

Request:  Report language for AMS- Continue and Expand Organic                Price Reporting

Request:  Report language for NASS- Continue and Expand Organic              Data Collection

Request:  Report language for ERS- Continue and Expand Organic                 Data Analysis Work


 The Organic Production and Marketing Data Initiative is charged with collecting data on the production and marketing of organic agricultural products as a part of the overall baseline of data regarding agricultural production and marketing. While this program is funded at a mandatory level, the 2014 Farm Bill authorizes $5 million annually in discretionary funding for this work. We support an additional $309,000 for the USDA (AMS) Organic Data Initiative, and report language urging strong intra-agency cooperation on continued and expanded organic price reporting and data collection, and an additional $250,000 for the USDA (NASS) Organic Data Initiative.


Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)

Request:  Report language on public cultivar development

Request:  Report language on organic research


          Organic and sustainable farmers need access to germ plasm that is unique to their cropping systems and to our changing climate. Unfortunately, in recent years, there has been fewer resources available to public research and cultivar development with the growth of the biotechnology industry.


​           While Congress has stressed the need for conventional plant and animal breeding for AFRI research grants, USDA has been slow to implement this congressional intent. We ask the Appropriations Committee to stress again that AFRI needs to place a high priority on classical breeding and public cultivar development within their research program.


​               As we have stated earlier, the demand for organic research outstrips the funding available. Therefore, we also request report language urging NIFA to increase funding for organic research through AFRI.


Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) 

Request: $30 million


​The SARE program is another valuable research program with a focus on environmentally sound practices and systems, with organic production research as one of the beneficiaries. Consistent with the increased demand for organic research, as well as the challenges presented by a changing climate, we are requesting $30 million for the SARE Program to assist farmers as they try to improve and adjust their growing practices.


Food Safety Outreach Program

Request: $5 million


With the changes mandated by the Food Safety and Modernization Act of 2010, it is critical for small and mid-size farms and small processing facilities to receive the training necessary to comply with new food safety regulations. The requested $5 million for the training program coincides with the President’s budget requests for FY 2016.  We are also requesting report language stating that local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) should be eligible to work with local farmers in food safety training programs.   


USDA/Rural Business Cooperative Service

Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)

Request: $2.5 million


       ATTRA, a national sustainable agriculture information service, is an important source of information and technical assistance for farmers, ranchers, Extension agents, and educators on sustainable agriculture. We request $2.5 million for FY 2016 for ATTRA.


Thank you for your consideration of our requests.