Murphy urges USDA to prioritize organic research

Easton Courier

After learning about Connecticut’s organic farming production from local farmers and organic agriculture researchers during a recent meeting at the University of Connecticut, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prioritize organic research in agriculture research grants.

In a letter addressed to USDA Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack, Murphy emphasized that despite growing consumer demand for organic products, the federal government spends less than 1% of the main federal agriculture research grants — the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative — on organic agriculture research.

Murphy also highlighted the benefit of organic research to conventional farmers across the nation, who could apply the research to grow their businesses.

“I write today to urge you to prioritize organic research as you award agriculture research grants in FY 2016 and would encourage you to prioritize organic agriculture research in your FY 2017 budget,” wrote Murphy.

“According to the Organic Trade Association, sales in organic products increased 11.5% in 2014 from the previous year. However, investment in organic projects in hallmark agriculture research programs is not keeping pace with demand. In order to help meet growing consumer demand, federal investment in agriculture research must include robust support for organic agriculture research projects,” he said.

Murphy emphasized that organic research can benefit conventional farmers as well.

“All farmers can benefit from research on using crop rotations to break pest cycles or non-herbicide methods of weed control, even if the research is targeted to organic systems,” he said.

“Robust federal investments in organic research are critical for supporting existing farmers and making it easier for new farmers to make the transition to organic to help this growing market.”