13 July 2023- Pennsylvania U.S. Senator John Fetterman, joined by Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), on Thursday introduced the Organic Science and Research Investment Act. The bill would provide much needed support to the organic farming industry‚ both through expanded funding for research agencies and universities and ensuring organics research is prioritized at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Specifically, the Organic Science and Research Investment Act will require USDA’s research agencies to better coordinate on organic research and extension, ensuring that the USDA considers organic research priorities in its budget justification to Congress and studies the feasibility of certifying more research land as organic. The bill will also increase funding for the USDA’s Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which supplies grants to universities and other research institutions for organics research and has provided nearly $5 million for organics research at Penn State University alone over the past two years. And finally, the bill will build on the Biden administration’s organic research work by creating a statutory grant program to support producers’ as they transition to organic production.
Pennsylvania’s organic farms leave a significant economic footprint in the commonwealth. The commonwealth ranks fourth in the nation by number of certified organic farms with over 1,125. In 2021 alone, Pennsylvania farms produced and sold $1.09 billion in organic commodities. Sen. Fetterman’s legislation would expand investments in this booming and growing industry to support efforts to increase production in Pennsylvania and across the country. The bill is endorsed by over 60 organizations including two from Pennsylvania: PCO Certified Organic and PASA Sustainable Agriculture.
“I’m proud to introduce this bill to expand resources for Pennsylvania’s critical organics industry. Our farmers are some of the best in the world, and we have to support them in every way possible,” said Sen. Fetterman. “We’re one of the top organic-producing states, and we need to keep it that way. Earlier this year, our state government invested $1.8 million to help conventional farms transition to organic farming, and I’m going to fight like hell to make sure the federal government’s part in supporting organic research and our small farmers gets there too.”
“Because of our farmers, Pennsylvania is one of the Nation’s leaders in organics, one of the fastest growing sectors of American agriculture,” said Sen. Casey. “A meaningful federal investment in this vital industry would create jobs in rural areas and market opportunities for our family farmers. I look forward to leading the Organic Science and Research Investment Act with Senator Fetterman to support Pennsylvania farmers and ensure the strength of American agriculture.”
“We must do more to support our country’s organic farmers,” said Sen. Booker. “By prioritizing organic research and helping support farms’ transition to organic production, we can bolster the sector and ensure the availability of high-quality organic food for all families.”
“Every dollar invested in agriculture research has a $20 return,” said Sen. Brown. “That’s why the Organic Science and Research Investment Act is so important. It will increase investments in organic agriculture research so that our organic farmers can be more productive, profitable and resilient, and so more Ohio families can put organic food on their table.”
The Organic Science and Research Investment Act would:
- Require USDA’s research agencies to better coordinate on organic research and extension.
- Ensure USDA considers organic research priorities in its budget justification to Congress.
- Require USDA to study the feasibility of certifying more research land as organic.
- Increase mandatory funding for the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which supplies grants to universities and other organizations for organics research.
- Build on the administration’s organic research work by creating a statutory grant program studying producers’ decisions to transition to organic production.