Washington, D.C. -The Organic Agriculture Research Act of 2018, a bipartisan bill that works to increase funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), was introduced recently by Senators Susan Collins, R-ME, and Bob Casey, D-PA.

This bill, which acts as a Senate companion bill to the House’s Organic Agriculture Research Act of 2017 (H.R. 2436), reauthorizes OREI until 2023 and gradually increases funding to $50 million over five years, according to apress releasefrom the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).

“OREI was created over 15 years ago when the organic industry looked very different,” said Kanika Gandhi, policy specialist at NSAC. “The organic industry has experienced massive growth over the last few years and all signs indicate that consumer interest in organics will only continue to increase. Yet, despite its growth, domestic organic production continues to lag far behind demand for organic products. It is high time that our national investment in organic agricultural research is increased to catalyze the advancement of domestic production.”

OREI is currently the only federal program focused specifically on research for the organic sector; yet unlike many other farm bill programs, OREI’s funding expires at the end of the 2014 Farm Bill cycle. The Organic Agriculture Research Act, like its House companion, will help to ensure that the funding for the program increases to an amount that will bring it more in line with current demand and growth projections for the organic industry.

“We have been pleased to see the increasing interest in and attention to agricultural research in Congress,” said Gandhi. “We applaud Senators Casey and Collins for recognizing the importance of OREI and its role in supporting innovation in agriculture and business development nationwide.”

As Whole Foods Magazine reported in January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is seeking projects aimed at improving organic production including feed-related initiatives. The $17.6 million in grants are funded by NIFA’s OREI. Priority grant areas include biological, physical, and social science research, including economics. Eligible groups for the grants include land-grant and other research universities, federal agencies, national laboratories, state agricultural experiment stations, research foundations, and other private researchers.

Applications must be received by March 1. Information about the grant process is available online.