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Consumer Perception is a Real Concern

Just over a month ago, the Department of Agriculture announced that it will allow American farmers to plant genetically engineered alfalfa, which is widely used as feed for dairy cows and horses.

Friday, Mar 02, 2012
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The Scientific Congress on Organic Agricultural Research

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The Scientific Congress on Organic Agricultural Research (SCOAR) is an OFRF-sponsored network of farmers, researchers and extensionists who are interested in organic farming research and information-exchange. Membership in SCOAR is free and open to all members of the public who share this interest. Members of the SCOAR network receive OFRF's bi-monthly email newsletter, the SCOAR Bulletin. More»

thumbnail imagh of SCOAR Bulletin

The SCOAR Bulletin highlights organic funding resources, organic job opportunies, news in higher education, the latest organic research, and more. Farmers, researchers and extensionists interested in partcipating in the SCOAR network are encouraged to subscribe to the SCOAR Bulletin.

 


A Brief History of SCOAR

The Scientific Congress on Organic Agricultural Research (SCOAR) was formed in 2000 as a national collaborative network of organic producers, investigators, and educators. The SCOAR mission is “to plan and promote research and information-exchange for understanding and improving organic agricultural systems.” A national Steering Committee was formed, and two national meetings and several regional/topical meetings were held in 2001 and 2002. As a result of these meetings and recruitment through OFRF's website, the SCOAR network now has more than 2,000 participants. These participants continue to receive e-mail bulletins from the SCOAR project with news about organic agricultural research activity. In addition to the meetings and bulletins, three main SCOAR activities have been pursued:

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(1) Development of a National Organic Research Agenda (NORA), using input elicited in the various meetings. This effort produced recommendations for implementation of the Organic Research and Extension Initiative created by Congress in the 2002 Farm Bill, and a more extensive compilation of research outcomes focused on whole-systems management.

(2) Development of a concept paper for describing the multiple benefits of organic agriculture as justification for organic research and extension initiatives. This effort is currently underway.

(3) Management of the organicaginfo.org website


SCOAR Goals

  • Cultivate a peer-level process of mutual learning and democratic collaboration among a diverse community of organic farmers & ranchers, scientists, extensionists, consultants, consumers and others for pursuit of the project Mission.
  • Create a shared understanding of organic agriculture as an ecological approach to managing agricultural systems.
  • Identify and characterize research and information-exchange priorities pertaining to the Mission, through various activities and documentation of those activities.
  • Advance the state-of-the-art of organic systems research, including on-farm, participatory, whole systems, and multi-farm studies.
  • Increase access to the knowledge, skills, and practices of successful organic producers by developing and implementing models for networking and information sharing among organic producers and scientists.
  • Encourage the use and implementation of SCOAR's results.

Additional SCOAR products

Towards a Socioeconomic Research Agenda for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems: Preliminary Assessment of Topics, by Kate Clancy, 2008.

Administrative Recommendations for Sec. 7218 The Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002.

 

 

Organic Farmers and Conservationists
Eye Improvements to Federal Programs


OFRF recently brought more than 60 people from across California together for a one-day workshop to educate agriculture producers about how to influence the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) at the local level. The workshop also aimed to encourage a dialogue about this issue between producers, NRCS field staff, and community organizations that work with both groups.

Organic and transitioning farmers and ranchers met with USDA field staff in Davis, California, for the workshop, where they discussed the barriers to organic agriculture producer participation in federal programs that provide funding and technical support for on-farm conservation practices.

Hear Some Farmer Thoughts on Conservation Programs

These programs include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). the EQIP Organic Initiative, and the Conservation Stewardship Program.

While organic farming systems provide numerous conservation benefits, the NRCS has only recently begun to recognize them, and organic and transitioning producer participation in NRCS conservation programs is still proportionally low in many parts of the country.

In California, organic and transitioning producers have a higher rate of participation in federal conservation programs. Nonetheless, both producers and NRCS staff at the Davis workshop identified several barriers that prevent or limit organic and transitioning agricultural producer participation.

Hear what some of the farmers attending the workshop had to say about accessing federal conservation programs:

Barriers identified included

  • timing of program deadlines,
  • amount of paperwork and bureaucratic steps required,
  • lack of understanding of NRCS terminology,
  • lack of understanding about organic farming systems, and
  • outreach to organic and transitioning growers.

Perhaps the most significant barrier identified during the workshop was the fact that organic producers, especially small-scale producers, were just not used to working with government agencies.

However, the NRCS staff attending the workshop were all dedicated conservationists eager to work with organic producers to improve their access to federal conservation programs. At the end of the day, most participants agreed that the dialogue was crucial and needs to continue in order to improve organic and transitioning producer participation in federal conservation programs.

OFRF has also collaborated on a guide to educate organic producers on how to work locally and at the state level to improve conservation programs. This guide, entitled "NRCS State Technical Committees and Local Working Groups: A Guide for Organic Farmers and Ranchers," was co-written by OFRF, the Center for Rural Affairs, the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and Farm Aid.

If you would like more information about the producer guide and OFRF's work to improve conservation programs for organic and transitioning producers, contact Udi Lazimy, Policy Program Organizer, at udi(at)ofrf.org or at 831-426-6606 x 108.

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