Aug 24, 2021
Congressional staffers meet at USDA ARS site with organic group

Organic Farming Research Foundation hosted Rep. Jimmy Panetta’s, D-CA, congressional staffers at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Salinas, California, last week.

The site visit focused on the importance of increased investment in organic research and was instrumental in Panetta’s decision to co-sponsor H.R.2803, the Agricultural Resilience Act (ARA).

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) organized the tour of the organic fields at the ARS led by Eric Brennan, USDA Research Horticulturist and the ARS’ only dedicated organic researcher in the country. California organic farmers in attendance shared their firsthand experience in applying organic research to their farming practices, including composting and cover cropping. Attendees emphasized the importance of investing more research dollars to organic farming practices at the Salinas facility and other ARS locations.

“Central Coast farmers and ranchers have always been on the leading edge of organic production, thanks to their hard work and partnerships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and organizations like the Organic Farming Research Foundation,” Panetta said in a news release. “As congressman, my role is to act as the bridge between our communities and Washington, D.C., to advocate for my producers’ needs, and to break through the bureaucracy when they are not getting the answers or funding that they need to keep innovating and growing.”

According to the news release, Panetta’s decision to co-sponsor the ARA was informed by his review of the bill text as well as the work and education provided by OFRF, whose mission has been to advance organic agriculture through scientific research since 1990. The Santa Cruz-based nonprofit has invested over $3M and awarded over 350 grants, and provides OFRF-funded research results for free.

“In California and across the country, growers are experiencing the effects of climate change,” said Brise Tencer, executive director of OFRF. “We are appreciative of Rep. Panetta’s support for organic research and the Agricultural Resilience Act which will benefit American farmers who are at the forefront of the climate crisis.”

Panetta sits on the House Committee on Agriculture and is co-chair and founder of the Agriculture Research Caucus. His district, which includes Monterey County, has experienced tremendous growth in organic production. According to the 2020 Monterey County Crop and Livestock Report, the county recorded 132,809 organic acreage – nearly doubling since 2018.

“As we in Congress continue our efforts to put forward funding for infrastructure priorities, I remain committed to elevating the needs of the organic producers I proudly represent, so they can continue to have the tools they need to adapt to climate stressors, invest in soil health, and succeed in the twenty-first century,”  Panetta said.

Others who attended the meeting included:

  • Jane Sooby, Senior Policy Specialist, California Certified Organic Farmers
  • Phill Foster, Organic Farmer, Pinnacle Organically Grown Produce & Phil Foster Ranch
  • Roy Fuentes, Organic Farmer, Fuentes Berry Farms
  • Rebecca King, Organic Farmer, Garden Variety Cheese & Monkeyflower Ranch

Organic Farming Research Foundation works to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF cultivates organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production.

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