Legislation introduced to help strengthen organic farming

AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine - Agriculture is very important here in Aroostook County...and that includes organic farming.

Photo: Andy Pernick / MGN

According to Senator Susan Collins, organic farming is one of the fastest growing sectors in American agriculture, but federal investment hasn't been keeping pace with the growth.

Senator Collins, along with Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvia, have introduced the Organic Agriculture Research Act of 2018.

"What the act would do is provide some funding for research into organic farming methods and help offset part of the cost that the state uses to certify farms as complying with USDA standards for organic farming," said Senator Collins.

Collins says that over the past five years, Maine's organic industry has grown by more than 75 percent. She says this bill will help provide the tools needed to continue the growth already being seen.

Specifically, the legislation would reauthorize and incrementally increase funding for USDA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) to ensure continued investment in organic agricultural research. It would reauthorize OREI for an additional five years and gradually increase its funding from $30 million in fiscal year 2019 to $50 million in fiscal year 2023. Achieving this level of funding builds toward “baseline status” for the initiative, which would make it a permanent part of the Farm Bill’s Research Title.

OREI is the flagship competitive organic research program at USDA, supporting applied research and extension projects that meet the needs of producers and processors that have adopted organic standards. The program helps organic and non-organic farmers alike by funding applied research projects that help growers improve their crop and livestock management skills, protect their produce from pests and diseases, ensure safe handling of fresh value-added products, and promote locally-grown options.