USDA: Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Competitive Grants Program – Organic Transitions

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture requests applications for the Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Competitive Grants Program – ORG for the fiscal year (FY) 2023 funding cycle, to solve critical organic agriculture issues, priorities, or problems.

Donor Name: U.S. Department of Agriculture

State: All States

County: All Counties

Type of Grant: Grant

Deadline: 04/27/2023

Size of the Grant: $1,000,000

Grant Duration: 4 years


The overall goal of the Organic Transitions Program (ORG) is to support the development and implementation of research, extension and higher education programs to improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers, as well as those who are adopting organic practices. NIFA administers the ORG program by determining priorities in U.S. agriculture through Agency stakeholder input processes in consultation with the NAREEEAB.

Purpose and Priorities

The ORG under assistance listing 10.303 is aligned with the following:

  • Subject to the availability of appropriations to carry out this program, the Secretary may award grants to colleges and universities [as defined by section 1404 of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 (NARETPA), as amended, on a competitive basis for projects that address priorities in United States agriculture and involve integrated research, education, and extension activities, as determined by the Secretary in consultation with the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board (NAREEEAB).
  • One of the primary goals and objectives of the ORG program is to address practices and systems particularly associated with organic crops, organic animal production, and organic systems that integrate crop and animal production.
  • ORG strongly encourages applicants to develop partnerships that include collaboration with small- or mid-sized, accredited colleges and universities; 1890 Land-Grant Institutions, 1994 Land-Grant Institutions, Hispanic-serving institutions, and/or other institutions that serve high-risk, under-served, or hard-to-reach audiences as well as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that are engaged in organic agriculture research, education, and outreach.
  • International partnerships, linkages, and exchanges that contribute to solving or solve critical organic agriculture issues, priorities, or problems in the United States are also welcome.
  • Applications are expected to contain descriptions of stakeholder involvement in the research process from problem identification, planning, implementation, transfer of knowledge and technology, and evaluation. Applicants are strongly encouraged to assemble project teams that include those with expertise in research, education, extension, and evaluation, and to utilize a systems approach. Projects should plan to deliver applied production information to producers, students, or their information providers, such as extension agents/educators, agricultural consultants and other service providers, or college teaching faculty.
  • Organic agricultural systems and practices provide many ecosystem services, and natural resources stewardship is a key principle in organic farming. For example, the use of cover crops, crop rotations, and erosion control measures; proper manure management practices; and humane livestock operation guidelines are cross-compliant with many Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) practice standards. How specific practices and combinations of practices interact in organic systems—including their contributions to conservation outcomes and climate change mitigation and adaptation potential—is neither well documented nor understood, especially in the case of long-term soil management under organic production conditions.
  • The most meaningful metrics or models to quantify these services in organic system are also not clear. A better understanding is needed, and documentation of these outcomes will allow for the adjustment of organic practices to optimize ecosystem services and to quantify and document those services in the areas of conservation practices, pollinator health, and climate adaptation, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This information will help farmers better assess the financial benefits and costs of their practices and improve their ability to qualify effects for current and possible future incentives in conservation program payments and climate change markets, and sustainability labeling premiums. This process will also help justify consumer expectations that organically grown and certified food, feed, fiber, or other value-added organic products are produced using the most environmentally sound and sustainable production practices possible.
  • To be successful, organic agriculture also needs to contribute toward essential ecosystem processes and components, such as biodiversity. This requires better understanding and assessment of the contribution of organic agricultural systems to maintain biodiversity. However, for organic agriculture to provide these ecosystem benefits, producers need economically viable crop and livestock management tools. The National Organic Program (NOP) maintains a list of management tools for certified organic producers. Recommendation for removal of certain tools from the NOP also creates the need for research-based alternatives.
  • The NOP has specifically requested research directed to finding replacements for listed prohibited substances that are critical for many segments of the industry – for producers already certified for organic production to those in transition or considering transition.
  • Research findings will not have their intended impact on the organic agriculture industry unless they reach and are adopted by producers. Effective extension or other outreach, efforts are required. Because few extension tools and other information resources are available to organic farmers and ranchers, producers and their advisors have cited the need for these to help guide transitioning during this critical period.
  • Projects that use indigenous traditional ecological knowledge are appropriate for this program.

Priority Areas for FY 2023

Proposals consistent with the Legislative Authority will be accepted for the competitive peer review process involving an external panel of experts. NIFA is soliciting applications for ORG in the following areas (not listed in order of importance):

Priority 1: Document and understand the effects of organic practices on soil health and fertility; greenhouse gas mitigation; enhanced biodiversity; and understanding of weeds, pests and diseases dynamics for better management to help systems adapt to climate change, build resilience of the organic farming system, protect water and other resources, and provide other ecosystem services. These practices include but are not limited to crop rotation; livestock feeding and management; livestock-crop system integration; organic manure, mulch, and/or compost additions; cover crops; and reduced or conservation tillage.

Priority 2: Develop improved technologies, methods, models, and metrics to document, describe, and optimize the ecosystem services and the climate change adaptation and mitigation ability of organic crop, livestock, and integrated crop-livestock production systems.

Priority 3: Develop cultural practices and other allowable alternatives to substances recommended for removal from NOP’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. This may include effective substitutes or new technologies, cultural practices, cultivars, or breeds that render the NOP-cited substance in question less limiting to production under organic standards. Studies of alternatives should include evaluation of efficacy based on resulting productivity, profitability, climate change adaptation, and natural resources stewardship effects. They encourage a sustainable whole-systems approach but will also consider proposals that are narrower in scope.

Priority 4: Overcome barriers to organic transition. Projects under this priority should address major barriers that limit the transition to organic agriculture in a specific region, crop, or animal production system and develop practical information and tools for producer use. These can include, but are not limited to, production challenges during the transition period, local and regional infrastructure constraints, marketplace challenges, disruptive conditions like the COVID-19 pandemic, and administrative or policy barriers. Any constraint must be acknowledged by growers and other stakeholders. Proposals to improve organic animal or crop production management strategies and production systems should be submitted to the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). Lobbying and advocacy activities are not allowed.

Funding Information

  • The amount available for ORG in FY 2023 is approximately $7,500,000. USDA is not committed to fund any particular application or to make a specific number of awards.
  • ORG anticipates funding standard Integrated Research, Education, and Extension projects with a project period of 2 to 4 years. The budgets that applicants provide may not exceed $400,000 per year with the total amount budgeted per award not to exceed $1,000,000. NIFA expects to make a total of eleven awards in FY 2023.

Eligibility Applicants

Applications may only be submitted by colleges and universities. 1994 Institutions, and Hispanic-serving agricultural colleges and universities.

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