Introduction & Background
The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has initiated a new,
two-year project to study federal agricultural research policies with
respect to organic farming practices. "The National Organic Research Policy
Analysis" project has been granted $60,000 in partial funding from the
Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Mark Lipson has been hired as the Project
OFRF is a national organization dedicated to promoting the widespread
adoption of organic farming practices. The Foundation was founded by and for
working organic farmers. Farmers form a majority of the Board of Directors,
and they actively direct the Foundation's grant-making program for on-farm
research. In pursuit of its purpose, OFRF's mission is to: 1) sponsor
research related to organic farming; 2) disseminate research results to
organic farmers and other growers interested in organic methods; 3) educate
the public and decision-makers about organic farming issues. OFRF's
grant-making program for on-farm research has distributed $214,000 for
forty-four projects since 1990.
In establishing its programs, the Foundation has sought to assess organic
farmers' research and educational needs. In 1993 OFRF conducted the
first-ever national survey of certified organic farmers and asked them to
rank their research priorities. The survey results confirmed what many
growers have observed: organic farmers' research needs have been poorly met
by existing programs and institutions. The survey respondents acknowledged
this failure by ranking institutional support for research on organic
methods as the fourth highest priority, out of twenty-eight possibilities.
Prompted by the survey results and their own experiences, the OFRF Board of
Directors added public policy work to the Foundation's long-term goals. As
its first action under that goal, OFRF has initiated this project to study
federal agricultural research policies and advance a farmers' agenda for
on-farm organic research.
Project Mission & Strategy
The project's mission is to cultivate a significant shift in federal
agricultural research policy towards support for on-farm research of organic
farming methods. This mission statement recognizes that reprioritizing the
federal agricultural research system has many strategic dimensions that are
beyond the scope of this particular project. What we can achieve is, "laying
the groundwork" for integrating organic farming into the missions and
identities of the national agricultural research institutions.
The project has three main areas of work: (1) baseline analysis of the
system vis-a-vis organic methods; (2) tactical planning for cultivating an
organic research agenda; and (3) providing the initial substance of
alternative policies and programs (i.e., the "organic research policy agenda"
itself). With "white papers" and other work products in each of these
areas, the project will begin the process of dissemination and education for
policy-makers. The project will also look to building a constituency for
organic farming research among consumers and the organic foods trade.
(Specific goals and objectives are detailed in the attached document,
"Organic Research Policy Project Goals").
This project takes place in the context of large-scale changes underway
within USDA (serious budget reductions, reorganization, a new Secretary,
nascent acceptance of pesticide reduction and some other sustainable
agriculture goals). The 1995 Farm Bill and other legislative priorities of
the 104th Congress may produce even more dramatic changes. This dynamic
environment will present some obstacles but also some likely opportunities
for achieving our goals.
Relating to Sustainable Agriculture
OFRF recognizes organic farming methods as necessary (but not alone
sufficient) for attaining a sustainable agricultural system. This project
represents organic farmers as a subset (or intersecting set) of the broader
movements grouped generally under the heading of "Sustainable Agriculture".
With respect to the research and extension system, we expect to build upon
the analyses and critiques made by sustainable agriculture advocates. Our
focus is more narrowly defined (i.e., by compatibility with the Organic Foods
Production Act) than most studies that have attempted to identify
"sustainable agriculture research", but the experience of others will be
crucial in designing our efforts. We also expect that our policy
recommendations will be placed in the context of other proposals and trends
in this field.
OFRF has hired Mark Lipson as Project Coordinator on a 40%-time basis.
Mark is a working organic farmer (mixed vegetables, 25 acres) with the
Molino Creek Farming Collective in Davenport, CA. He is the former Assistant
Executive Director of California Certified Organic Farmers (1985-92). He
currently serves as Chairman of the state's Organic Foods Advisory Board, and
is active in his County Farm Bureau. He holds a B.A. in Environmental
Planning and Public Policy from the University of California at Santa Cruz.
The Project Coordinator will manage all aspects of the project, in
conjunction with the Advisory Committee. OFRF's Program Coordinator Erica
Walz will assist the project. Oversight of the project will be maintained by
the OFRF Executive Director, Bob Scowcroft.
Project Advisory Committee
An active advisory committee is currently being recruited by the project
staff in consultation with members of OFRF's Board of Directors. OFRF
Board Member Kathleen Merrigan of the Wallace Institute for Alternative
Agriculture will be the Board's liaison to the project and will help to
facilitate the Advisory Committee.
The Advisory Committee has several (semiformal) levels of participation in
the project. "Core" members of the committee will assist in formulating and
tracking the project work plan, as well as reviewing and editing the work
products. "Consulting" members will actively contribute to the substance of
the work products. "Advising" members will provide ideas, leads,
evaluation, and assistance on all aspects of the project, but on a more
limited basis than the other levels of participation. The project's budget
does provide funds to compensate committee members for expenses and some
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Contact the Organic Research Policy Project and Mark Lipson
PO Box 440
Santa Cruz, CA 95061
phone:408-426-4006 or 426-6606
e-mail (temporarily): firstname.lastname@example.org