ChewsWise Blog

ChewsWise Blog

USDA Kills Grass-Based Research Program

In the Bush administration's proposed budget, a well-regarded grass-based research program at State College, PA, got the ax. A letter from the researchers states:

The research program at University Park seeks to develop profitable and sustainable animal, crop, and bioenergy producing enterprises while maintaining the quality of ground and surface waters. The loss of this research unit would end cutting edge research on nutrient management, forage and grazing land management, water quality, integrated farming systems, and bioenergy cropping systems for the northeastern U.S.

I know one of the researchers, Kathy Soder, who spent a lot of time explaining sustainable grazing practices to me while I was researching my book Organic Inc. In light of the growing demand for grass-fed meat and pasture-based dairy farming in the northeast, I find it incredible that this program is being killed.  We need more research into sustainable agriculture, not less. Click here for the researchers' letter about their fight to maintain funding.

Organic research has fared a bit better in the farm bill now on the Hill. The Senate allocated $16 million in mandatory money for organic research grants, while the House version of the bill only put up $5 million. The Organic Farming and Research Foundation is now lobbying to make sure the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative gets funded at the $16 million level and is looking for businesses and other organizations to sign its letter seeking this support. Contact OFRF.

Be aware that $16 million still represents less than 1 percent of the USDA's ag research budget -- even though organic farming represents 3 percent of food sales. The letter states:

This discrepancy in the share of research funding spent on organics is detrimental to an industry that relies intensively on management and information for its success. In fact, lack of knowledge is the biggest limiting factor for farmers and ranchers who are looking to take advantage of the growing organic market demand and profits that it brings.

- Samuel Fromartz